Visiting artist discusses creative process
Contributed by Katie O’Leary/ Studio Manager
Shakespeare’s Garden #1 2013, Watercolor on Rives BFK 30″ x 22″
Spontaneous. Intuitive. Impulsive. With a new exhibit combining poetry and printmaking, artist Ken Buhler reflects on what he calls the core concerns of his art and the threads that weave these themes together.
“I don’t go out and look for things to make art about; it just kind of happens spontaneously,” Buhler, a professor of the arts at Bard College, said Thursday in a talk as part of the Artist Series at Fairfield.
The idea of spontaneity is what drove Buhler to develop “Coral Series,” the first of his three main series of paintings.
A trip to Tulum, Mexico, spent collecting brain coral and conch shells proved to become an unexpected inspiration for Buhler as he found himself mimicking the weaving patterns of brain coral. Buhler said he doesn’t go into a piece with an image in mind. He lets the images come to him through his work and process.
The meandering lines found in “Coral Series” and in all of Buhler’s work are reminiscent of lazy squiggles during a boring lecture and this, Buhler explains, is no accident.
A teacher once told his class that doodling has nothing to do with art. Disagreeing with this statement, Buhler took the advice as a catalyst for a painting career.
Buhler said, “When a series ends, it doesn’t announce itself. I have to move on, but don’t know to what.”
In his next series, “Notes from the Edge of the World,” Buhler once again took inspiration from his surroundings on an artist fellowship to County Mayo in Ireland where he proclaimed, “I feel like I’m at the edge of the world here,” and it turns out, he was.
Buhler developed ideas from the concepts of language and chronology that he found in the antiquity surrounding him in Ireland. In a film, which he presented during his talk, the connections of his abstract paintings and prints to the vast landscapes of Ireland became more visually apparent.
Buhler has received numerous prestigious grants and fellowships including two from both the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in painting. His work is on display in galleries and museums across the country such as the Wichita Museum of Fine Art, the de Saisset Museum and the Ulrich Museum of Fine Arts.
The audience, a combination of artists and non-artists, was intrigued by Buhler’s talk from start to finish, especially with his use of film, which aided in illustrating his painting and printmaking process.
Freshman Kelly Troiano said, “I loved being able to see his painting process step-by-step through his videos. The paintings are even more beautiful to me now that I know about the layers and layers that make them up.”
Agreeing with her, Helen Pepperman ‘17 said, “His videos made the talk a multi-media experience. It was interesting to directly see how his paintings correspond with his trip to Ireland.”
Nature, antiquity and language are a common thread throughout all of Buhler’s works, as well as his method of putting most emphasis on the process of painting rather than the end result.
“I paint very intuitively and impulsively,” says Buhler, “[inspired by] color, light, a sense of desolation or emptiness.”