Ken Weir

2022 Still Life Paintings with Patterns

I enjoy adding patterns, but working with patterns is not always easy. Each has a personality and often a brightness and boldness that compete with the main characters (the still life objects). Do I mute them so they recede and host like a stage beneath actors or like the luxurious hair that frames a woman’s face? Or should the patterns roll and rattle beneath and between the objects like a mountain brook? Other patterns create form like the spots on a leopard. What happens when the leopard attacks the zebra? A maelstrom of patterns! Meanwhile the still life objects sit inanimately. But each is loaded with meaning. The surrounding patterns provide the movement.

I struggle with creating space. The French artist Vuillard painted interiors with walls covered with luxurious 1890’s wallpaper patterns. He painted them loosely and faint and placed people and furniture within the space. They are true interiors like the stage I mentioned above. You get to peek into and explore this exotic space when you view these paintings. They were rooms he lived in and the figures were his family and friends. Well of course I could do that but it would not be authentic. An artist has has to be genuine and use the objects at hand. That’s why I’ve purchased all sorts of swatches of fabric with beautiful patterns (hypocrisy alert). Actually I could not recreate those rooms with the people and lighting from the 1890’s. I suppose the best still life would be the kitchen counter after a meal! Real space and real objects. But I think paintings should be an escape from the everyday. A unique space and place.

2020 August Show: Unusual Patterns

In previous shows I've used figures to engage the viewer by depicting parables, stories and unlikely situations. In this show I've continued the theme of unusual associations, but with patterns, not people. Each still life features a collection of patterns that wouldn't normally be juxtaposed. Those with a disturbing sense of fashion might disagree and I agree! Unexpected collections of beautiful patterns creates a new dynamic and excitement. The same is true of people. Here the painting frame is like a room that brings unrelated people together, despite Covid!

2018 Show: Figures Wrapped in Patterns

You might say I am a fool. A figure wrapped in patterns is a poor substitute for say... a woman dressed in high fashion. But a painting of a woman in exquisite clothes would leave the rest of the canvas blank, so I am filling that space with patterns.

The other motivation for using patterns is to break a rule I was taught by Paul Georges--that color shapes should be pure and balanced. A blue region on the left should be balanced with blue on the right, red with red, etc. The balance creates a 'center' of attention which makes the painting dynamic. Children make balanced paintings. Renaissance artists deliberately did it.

But paintings are interesting if they both follow and break rules. And patterns break up areas of color and disrupt the balance. Perhaps they can balance each other...

Painting with patterns also allows me to borrow from the beautiful patterns very clever people have already created. Who are these people? What a job!

Lastly, a number of artists I admire such as Klimt, Vuillard, and Bonnard do crazy beautiful things with patterns. I study and borrow.

I haven't invested the effort to draw and paint each pattern exactly. I don't think it's necessary. May 3, 2018

2015 Show: The Jonestown Massacre and Other Human Mysteries

The Jonestown Massacre is a redo of an earlier painting but with more finesse, real figures and a greater scale. It depicts a prescient guard sitting before a vat of cyanide laced cool aid and the sect members in various stages of contemplating their fate.

2013 Show: Figurative Stories

I am a humanist. I seek situations and poses that present a simple dilemma or a pregnant moment. I try to depict a predicament, an awareness outside of the scene and a consequence though I never resolve a story.

A recent painting is ‘The Gift’ which shows an older gentleman presenting a small gift to an unclothed woman who, turning towards a light cascading through a window, refuses. The man appears hapless, unaware that the woman was already prepared to offer him the greatest gift--without his bribe. On the other hand the woman has received perhaps the enlightenment that Eve never knew, for the gentleman is most likely of dubious character.

Working in the figurative, humanist tradition that ennobles man gives me the opportunity to address questions of truth, beauty and human nature. I never provide answers with my work. How can I? I know so little.

2011 Show: Extraordinary People

2010 Show: Ken Weir, Suzanne Brault and Felix