Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tom Anderson at Childhood’s End

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 5, 2015

"Kyoto" mixed media
Tom Anderson is one of the most prolific and most popular artists in Olympia. His public works include the Park of the Seven Oaks, paintings in the lobby of Providence St. Peter Hospital, Panorama City, St. Martin’s University, Bates Technical and Olympia’s City Hall. Childhood’s End has been showing his work on a regular basis for at least 25 years.

Anderson paints with chemicals, gold leaf, pastel, Graphite and varnishes on recycled metal and aluminum sheets. In the 26 years since I first saw his work I’ve observed an endless recycling of a relatively small selection of motifs and techniques. There are metal squares and rectangles attached to the surface with brads; there are large circular shapes, usually in the center and sometimes surrounded by smaller circles or other shapes; there are shapes seemingly derived from Asian writing that look like something you might find on the walls of an ancient temple; there are decorative leaf patterns that appear to be stenciled; and there are swirling graphite marks that are similar to the artist’s signature.
I get the impression he could continue recycling these motifs until the day he dies and never run out of variations.

"Samic Bass Guitar" mixed media on guitar
There are a lot of these works in Anderson’s current show at Childhood’s End, plus three guitars — making art from guitars being his latest thing. These are actual guitars that he has decorated with the same techniques he uses on his paintings. They can still be played, although I imagine the addition of metal, varnish and gold and silver leaf might affect the sound.

There are a number of two- and three-panel pieces with high-value painting (meaning predominantly light colors). One of these that I like is called “Danish Modern.” It features small Mondrian-like squares and rectangles in primary red, yellow and blue.
Among my favorites are three large square paintings, each with a single splashy circle in the middle in, respectively, white, light blue and gold on almost black backgrounds, one with a Pollock-like splash of red flung across the circle.

There’s a sweet little painting called “Birch” that features a leaf pattern on a brushy background. I usually don’t like painting to which the word “sweet” can be applied, but I love the interaction of background and foreground in this one. The ground is made of transparent layers that are both under and over the leaf pattern. Look closely at this one to see what I’m talking about.

Also featured is a selection of ceramic vessels by Rabun Thompson with colors and surface decoration so much like parts of Anderson’s paintings that if they were not labeled I would have thought they were his works.

There will be an artist’s reception Friday, Feb. 13 from 6-8 pm.


Childhood’s End Gallery, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Feb. 28, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724.

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