Friday, January 22, 2016

Scott Young at Stable Studios

Photo: “Waking Free,’ watercolor and gouache by Scott Young, courtesy Stable Studios

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 21, 2016
“Celestial Dance,’ watercolor and gouache by Scott Young, courtesy Stable Studios
Is it kosher for an art critic to say he doesn’t know what he thinks about an exhibition he’s reviewing? Somehow it doesn’t seem right, and yet we’re human. Sometimes it takes us more time than we have to study an artist’s work and mull it over before coming to a definitive conclusion.
I’ve never before seen Scott Young’s paintings. He is perhaps best known as a musician, playing in the bands GAG and Trans FX. His show This Celestial Gate at Olympia’s newest gallery, Stable Studios, consists of 23 small-to-medium-size paintings in watercolor and gouache on paper, mostly framed but with a group of six unframed pages from his sketchbook in the back of the gallery.
“Waking Free,’ watercolor and gouache by Scott Young, courtesy Stable Studios
The paintings are technically well done with figures, faces, and geometric patterns painted in unmodulated primary colors — red, yellow, blue with black and white. Black backgrounds in many of the paintings are sparkled with white dots that create the feel of a star-filled night. Young’s paintings appear to be heavily influenced by the art of India and also by Keith Haring, who is quoted on the margins of one of the paintings. To me they are more like book illustrations than paintings that stand alone. They are somewhat predictable, but with inventive passages.
Among the more inventive pieces are “Celestial Dance” and “Waking Free.” Each features a couple of yellow dancing women whose figures come together to create faces out of the background (with the addition of eyes and mouths). These paintings are fun to look at. I like the way the arms interlock to form eye shapes. I also like the addition of smaller faces and a couple of snakes in “Waking Free” and the piano keyboard teeth in “Celestial Dance.”
Probably the most inventive surprise to be found in any of them is the woman on a yellow bed in “Sutra”: an abstracted interior with eyes in the center and in the lower section a boxy yellow bed. A white female figure appears to go into the bed in places, hiding parts of her body. All we see is the part of her body from her hips to her feet and two hands that seemingly reach out from within the bed.
All but one of the unframed paintings in the group at the back include hand-written notes along the margins. On one is the quote from Haring: “Unity in the face of whatever kind of struggle or oppression is existing in the world, there has to be power to the people.”
I like the vibrancy of the colors and the contrasts between architectural structures and  sensual organic shapes, and the little surprises that pop up in many of the paintings are fun to discover. A lot of imagery seems to be highly personal and psychological with meanings only the artist knows.
Young’s work is obviously popular, as evidenced by the proliferation of red dots on the gallery walls. On the day I visited, 11 of the 23 paintings were marked as sold. They are reasonably priced, ranging from $200 to $500 with the majority in the $300-$350 range.
This Celestial Gate, Stable Studios, 607 5th Ave. SE, Olympia, open Fridays 1-8 p.m. and by appointment, 360.951.7902,

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