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Lawrence Tarpey: Figures & Ground
May 6 - July 31, 2016
Lawrence Tarpey is a Lexington-based artist whose work features human and animal imagery that express varied emotional states. While he is essentially a self-taught painter, there is a dreamlike quality to his intimate worlds that harkens back to Surrealist practitioners like Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró. (right: Lawrence Tarpey, I Dream of Dreamy, 2003, oil and pencil on gessoboard, courtesy of the artist and the Heike Pickett Gallery)
His techniques are labor intensive and experimental, involving processes of painting, drawing, and inscribing. Tarpey often cultivates accidents and erasures, finding indications of figures and landscapes that he can further articulate with sensitive mark making.
Floating heads and other disparate body parts are depicted having humorous encounters or confronting minor quandaries. There are also potential nightmares, such as when countless bodies seem to be migrating across an apocalyptic terrain. Color is kept to a minimum, with an overall monochrome palette establishing his pictorial spaces. Occasionally, a rich hue will help focus the viewer on a compositional detail or establish a compositional rhythm.
This modest survey of Tarpey's work offers insights into the recurring motifs and procedural obsessions that make his art immediately recognizable and deserving of concentrated looking. Lawrence Tarpey: Figures & Ground is on exhibit at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky from May 6 to July 31, 2016.
To call Lawrence Tarpey a painter is a bit misleading because he combines a range of techniques to call forth the human and animal imagery that populate his works on paper, panel, and canvas. The Lexington-based artist often puts down a ground of ink or paint and then disturbs it with sponges and scrapers during the drying process. This provides him with indications of figures and landscape formations that he can further articulate in distinct acts of drawing and erasing, a process he calls "etching." This is not surprising since qualities associated with traditional printmaking inform much of Tarpey's work. Color is kept to a minimum, with an overall monochrome palette establishing his pictorial spaces. Occasionally, a rich hue will help focus the viewer on a detail or establish a compositional rhythm.
There is a dreamlike quality to Tarpey's intimate worlds that harkens back to surrealist practitioners like Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró. He is playful when he depicts heads and other disparate body parts experiencing humorous encounters or confronting minor quandaries. There are also potential nightmares, such as when his orchestration of countless bodies is overwhelming and an air of apocalypse hovers.
Tarpey works slowly, and his studio is filled with numerous works in progress. He waits and watches for the next move to become clear, a tonal shift here or a biomorphic shape redefined there. Recurring motifs and procedural obsessions make his work immediately recognizable, and he revels in conjuring likable characters and elusive personages. "I'm not interested in storytelling," he said recently. Distinct moods define his horror vacui-anxious, whimsical, and elegiac. His work demands our time and concentrated looking.
(above: Lawrence Tarpey, Road In Rode Out, 2013, oil and pencil on clayboard, courtesy of the artist and the Heike Pickett Gallery)
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