Tom Leaver, ‘Still There’, 2017, McKenzie Fine Art

The imagery in Tom Leaver’s paintings is entirely imaginary. The paintings are recognizable as landscapes, but they do not depict any specific place the artist has seen nor are they based on photographs of any topography or locale. Instead, the artist chooses landscape imagery as a vehicle to express emotional, psychological and spiritual states of mind.

Leaver creates his paintings using his gloved hands, applying the oil paint in sweeps of his palm or the side of his hand, or in fingertip daubs. The only brush he uses is for the application of turpentine, and a rag is employed to pull the solvent through the paint or wipe it away. Overall, there is sfumato-like softness in the paint application, a change from the more defined and energetic mark-making of his previous body of work. There has also been a subtle and intuitive shift toward a subdued palette of varying brown and gold tonalities, offset by lighter passages in the sky above or bodies of water below. The gentle and atmospheric space Leaver produces in his new paintings is deep, mysterious, and seemingly endless.

Leaver cites as influences Chinese landscape painting, which is suggestive rather than literal, and Japanese ensō painting, comprised of lone circular forms, often with no defined starting point. He notes that his own paintings always indicate a passage, also without a clear beginning or ending. Turner’s later works, with their unresolved quality (but not their strong color) are also influential. However, Leaver’s spiritual practice informs his work most fully, in the way the paintings are an expression of being present-minded in the action of creation. He notes, “I was never taught linear perspective, color theory, form and shadow, or even how to mix paints. My teacher would say, just paint. When I began practicing yoga I was told to just practice, all was coming. I started sitting zazen several years ago and my instruction was to just sit and watch my breath. The three practices have become one daily ritual, feeding into and off of each other. This latest body of work is a continuation of this idea, each painting feeding into and off the other.”

"Tom Leaver," McKenzie Fine Art, February 15 - March 18, 2018

Harry Newman, "Tom Leaver," Delicious Line, March 18, 2018

About Tom Leaver

American, b. 1957, based in California