Human forms and floral displays at Newburgh gallery
A first-ever solo show is a big deal for any artist, let alone one who has been painting for just five years.
Evan Samuelson, who has lived in Beacon since 2015, is experiencing that excitement. His show, Primordial Substance, which consists of 15 oversize oil paintings, continues at Newburgh’s Grit Works Gallery through Sept. 18.
The size of Samuelson’s paintings is a direct correlation (not uncommon to visual artists) to the size of his apartment, where he creates them.
“When I started, I was in a different apartment, and I was making smaller work,” he explains. “Luckily, I landed a new place with a higher ceiling.”
In his notes for the show, Samuelson writes that “working larger has always felt natural. I like that the preliminary lines and strokes utilize more of a full-body motion. It can also be viewed from further away and seems to create an immersive experience for the viewer.”
Samuelson says he typically begins with an underpainting, “shaping out the tone, to make sure the composition and balance make sense.” From there, he uses a grisaille technique done in monochromatic grays, which can create the illusion of sculpture. Sometimes he stops there but more often adds layers of color.
Growing up, Samuelson says, he only dabbled in art. “I had a knack for copying things; in sixth grade I got the art award,” he recalls. “But sports took me out of my head and into my body.”
He became a physical education teacher (most recently at Green Chimneys in Brewster) and left art behind until about five years ago, when he returned to it as a form of therapy. “My day thing, being with the kids, is central, but later, comfortable at home afterward, I paint,” he says. “Painting every day is my goal.”
Sometimes Samuelson is able to combine the two: He’s painted murals on campus and worked on art projects with students for life-skills classes.
What began five years ago as therapy has evolved. “Now it’s more about trying to provide visuals for love and connection,” he says. “I’ve gotten more into philosophy and psychology, with the kids, and learning more about relating to people and ways to incorporate more of the natural world in my art.
“I’ve developed a love for the act of painting,” Samuelson says. “I love to balance it with work. I want to go deeper into these ideas and connect, share and spread.”
Many of his works depict the human form and expressive floral displays, on canvas or wood. “With a new painting, I want it to be relatable; that’s where the forms come into play,” he says. “I play with that a little bit, to give it an altered perspective. Then it’s about trying to pull emotion out of the movement and positioning and trying to push it into a place you’re not aware of.”
The Grit Works Gallery, at 115 Broadway in Newburgh, is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment. See grit-works.com/gallery.