‘Terrain: New Paintings by Shawn Camp’

Artist Shawn Camp's latest works are topographical and aerial in theme, emphasizing swirls of grasslands and rivulets, clouds and stars

Arts Review

Terrain: New Paintings by Shawn R. Camp

RT Gallery, through March 18

When people who love and make art get together, they must converse; the exploration of technique, process, and the unanswerable – why we make art – are components of this discourse. Artist Shawn Camp, gallerist Rama Tiru, and I did just that late one Friday afternoon. Camp's latest works, made of buttery fat chunks of paint atop uneven palette-knifed areas revealing small secret wisps of collaged words, are topographical and aerial in theme, emphasizing swirls of grasslands and rivulets, clouds, and stars. In Caelum No.4, rose-colored petals, like medals bestowed upon a hero, chaotically arranged, rest upon a carpet of limestone. This is pure projection, for I am in a romantic frenzy. Camp, completely open to my suggested view of his work, participated in my little projection exercise. I point to a particular water passage in Gaea and ask what is the first thing that comes to his mind. "I'm in a canoe with friends on Lake Powell, Arizona. A dangerous storm, with huge waves, is approaching quickly, and we must get to land immediately. Someone decides to unroll the tent and use it as a sail. We reach shore just in time." I recall an incident on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. A high school boyfriend and I are out in the Lafitte Skiff we bought the previous summer. A storm approaches so quickly that we decide to tie the skiff to the overpass supports and hitch a ride back to camp. The next morning, we discover that the moorings have broken and the skiff must be lifted out with a hoist. "We recall these particular stories because the paint is forceful and intense; one feels lost in the angry part of nature," comments Camp. Tiru is attracted to the metallic gold veins in the same work. "I am immediately drawn to these lines because they are reminders of a familiar space in South India, the Kolar Goldfields, near my home." Camp comments, "I intentionally avoided referencing real places, remaining literal colorwise, thus allowing projections to develop."

Our conversation eventually led to the Nothingness necessary to create works. Nothingness (we attempted to come up with a more clever term) for Camp is when he turns off the cognitive or literal function and cuts to the direct act of painting, willing nothing. Think of this as a possession. The artist is the act. But maybe it is best that I leave off here and move into my own version of the Nothingness: kayak afloat on a calm channel, red hot candy sun rising in the bosom of the Texas hill country, fedora tipped forward, a long, slow draw on an ivory yellowed pipe.

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Terrain:New Paintings by Shawn Camp, RT Gallery, Shawn Camp, Rama Tiru

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