When I started trying to promote my own artwork online I kept coming across other people's art that amazed or compelled me in one way or another. This blog has been a way for me to practice thinking and writing about art, as well as learning more about my peers and all the incredible art that is being made out there.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vonn Sumner

"Warrior (Fallen)"  oil on panel  14.25" x 12"  2011
"Warrior (Slouching)"  oil on panel  15" x 11.75"  2011
"Amnesiac"  oil on linen  47" x 47"  2011
"Sienna"  oil on canvas  50" x 70"  2008

study for "Lookout"  watercolor on paper
Vonn Sumner's work, whether on a grand monumental scale or in small intimate paintings, is iconic. The word iconic is overworked and overwrought these days, but think about the original meaning of the term, the visual representations of Jesus or the saints in early Christian art. They were not meant to be portraits but mere symbols of the object of veneration, used as an aid to devotion. Von Sumner employs a minimalist approach to detail and composition in depicting realistic but cryptic images that can be seen as creative meditations on psychological states. Whew. OK... that sounded phony as all hell. But I'm serious. His paintings are of real people, but they are not about that person at all and so not portraits at all. The individual becomes a character, an object, a repository for a single idea. And it is that single, simple, curious, cryptic idea that is the point.

Interestingly Von Sumner describes his art education as developing backward historically, first learning about abstraction and expressionism which were well entrenched "establishment" forms at the time. Then gradually working back to the renaissance and (importantly) beyond. He describes his encounters with the content of that world vividly in an interview. Much of painting throughout pre-modern history is symbolic, often with a very precise visual vocabulary. And most of that visual vocabulary is alien to us now, meaningless without historical annotation. But Sumner says that "the very inaccessibility to those meanings draws me to them." And so "It’s about creating a pictorial and emotional, psychological space for the viewer to have an experience and if the experience is linear or literal or verbal then I don’t get what I want from it." Icons of ambiguity if you will. Works for me.

The strength of his work builds as you look through more and more of it so please, go spend some time on his website: www.vonnsumner.com

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