Double Vision: Chris Chappell and David Ohlerking
This show demonstrates how two painters working from the same subject can end up with radically different canvases
Reviewed by Amanda Douberley, Fri., Dec. 28, 2007
'Double Vision: Chris Chappell and David Ohlerking'
Davis Gallery, through Jan. 5
In founding the Austin Figurative Project last year, artists Chris Chappell and David Ohlerking raised the profile of traditional painting in Austin. Their Eastside gallery mounts rapid-fire exhibitions of work by member artists, who paint quickly from live models. Two painters working from the same subject can end up with radically different canvases, a circumstance that highlights each artist's particular style. This is the premise behind "Double Vision," Chappell and Ohlerking's two-person show at Davis Gallery.
Take the two paintings of Third & Chicon, where Austin Figurative Gallery is located. Both artists paint in oil on Masonite, which gives their work a baseline similarity. But in addition to their common subject matter, the similarities end there.
As is evident throughout the show, green and brown hues – dappled generously with white highlights – dominate Chappell's palette. His dynamic brushwork flows toward a vanishing point located two-thirds up from the bottom of the support, where sky and street meet in a haze of parked cars, asphalt, and yellow-green grass. The effect is comparable to the blurs of time-lapse photography; longer brushstrokes appear similar to the streaks of light generated by traffic in motion.
A striped crosswalk and a line of telephone poles help us to map Chappell's painting onto Ohlerking's, but the perspective is slightly different. In Ohlerking's painting, we see one less telephone pole and a fire hydrant surrounded by a spit of grass. It's as if the two artists worked side-by-side, slightly altering their respective points of view.
Ohlerking uses heavy outlines that make obvious his influences, including Edvard Munch and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. This technique gives his paintings a jewellike, cloisonné appearance. Brighter colors govern a more limited palette than Chappell's, with blocks of pink, red, and green paint making up most of his streetscape.
The differences between the two paintings of Third & Chicon reveal two divergent "visions" and prompt a series of questions fundamental to art and its history: Where does an artist's style come from? What factors condition his peculiar way of viewing the world? And what might make one painter's painting more appealing to a viewer than the other? Here, the last question probably amounts more to personal taste than anything else; this viewer leans toward Ohlerking, but you can decide for yourself.