"PAINTING, MORE THAN half it, isn’t actually putting brush to paint,” says 27-year-old Houston-born artist Grayson Chandler, who used to run cross-country, and believes there are many parallels between athleticism and creativity. “A lot of it is just sort of seeing, watching and looking. Like a basketball player dribbling a ball before they take a shot, or a golfer teeing up and getting their feet right. Before you dive in, know where you’re going to land.” For Chandler, that means a new collection of mysterious, beautifully composed watercolor and gouache paintings titled In Via, which lands at Deborah Colton Gallery on July 16.
The show’s title — “by way of” — is fitting, as the process in which Chandler arrives at his work will be revealed: Beginning June 4, in the weeks leading up to the show’s opening, the public is invited to check out the artist at work in a makeshift studio located at the rear of the gallery. It will remain in place through the run of the show.
This unique arrangement, titled “Artist Solo & Studio” or “Artist S&S,” is the first in a series of annual residencies at Deborah Colton, and is intended to give those interested in art a deeper understanding of the steps involved in its creation. Chandler, whose 2017 solo debut at Deborah Colton Gallery completely sold out, looks forward to engaging with the public and answering questions from visitors about his paintings, which have proved popular with collectors.
“The work has some narrative potency to it,” says Chandler. “It does have characters who play roles in order to guide your attention here and there and give it a sense of space. It really is like an environment.”
Those recurring “characters” include flower petals, butterflies, suspended vines and thin tree branches — recognizable shapes which seem to emerge like the remnants of a waking dream, and contribute to the “foreign, yet familiar” atmosphere of his art.
Nature is both a way in for the viewer and a point of inspiration for much of his work. But the ocular results are more like alien landscapes, or the blood, cells and guts of the body as seen through a microscope. While each painting is a visual feast for the eyes and imagination, Chandler is also creating a space for the viewer to experience an interior moment and meditate on the forms in a state of mindfulness, fully aware of and receiving without judgement whatever it is they are feeling.
“If you don’t ‘get it,’ that might trouble you,” says Chandler with a gentle matter-of-factness about what it might feel like for the viewer to look at one of his paintings. “But you also don’t have to get it. This doesn’t have a conclusion. You can come back to it at any moment, and it may or may not mean the same thing.”