Two Artists Experiment with Resin-based Paint at Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis

Jun 8, 2016 9:29PM

Oil, watercolor, or acrylic? For painters Ron Johnson and Griff Williams, it’s none of the above.

Both artists paint with resinous fluid instead of traditional materials, and both are currently on display at Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis. Though distinct, their practices have several elements in common. In particular, the artists carefully plan their works out ahead of time, creating intricate maps to lay out exactly where colors will go in their structured, textural works.

Williams, for instance, uses paint-by-numbers-style templates, each a unique stenciled enamel. He mixes his own pigments with transparent resin, which he then pours onto the enamel forms.

“The shapes are used in intersecting layers to compose an image, which camouflages the boundaries between things,” he has said. The results, as in his bold “Assertion” series, at first look like floral still lifes. On closer inspection, however, there’s more going on, from geometric patterns to colorful psychedelic forms. It’s chaos, but organized chaos—a “calculated technique,” Williams calls it.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s delicate, topographical paintings are based on thick lines that act as miniature dams, allowing the colored polyurethane to settle. Geographic and biological forms populate the work. As Johnson has said, “Viewers are literally able to see the archaeology, or experience my thoughts, in an archaeology of seeing.”

Though Johnson and Williams challenge tradition in their own ways, the commonalities between their practices make this a natural pairing. What is a painting? the intriguing exhibition asks. What is paint? What isn’t?

—Bridget Gleeson

Ron Johnson’s & Griff Williams’ work is on view at Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, May 20–Jun. 25, 2016.

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