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Air Quintets and Other Bird Paintings


     Gregory Scheckler is well-known for his lively, realistic paintings of birds. Borne out of life studies and pencil sketches, photo sketches, digital sketches and the artist’s imagination, the paintings mix traditional with contemporary art ideas, methods and materials. These colorful, avian action-portraits serve as an ongoing meditation on the forms and beauties of nature, life, the theory of evolution and the idea of representation in visual art.

     As poetic images, these paintings oppose stereotypes of wildlife art that contain the painted animal as an emblem of nature that’s been tamed (or ‘captured’ as photographers often say), of the hunting trophy, or of the all-too-clear nature guidebook scheme. Instead, the birds’ poses and actions seem full of movement and lightness, and a sparseness of painting that hints at rather than dictates form, light, and shadow. Indeed the more realistic and naturalistic the image, the more chaotic, fleeting, and almost incomprehensibly infinite the image needs to seem. Thus realistic paintings, in their composed stillness, at some level contradict the movements of the natural, such as the cause-and-effect of entropy versus natural selection — the paintings can only be tiny slices reflecting our experiences of the natural. For that reason balance across the sense of timing in a picture, and the forms of representation, are both crucial aspects of art-making. Keeping in mind such processes involved in the natural world, often within the painting Scheckler leaves unfinished sections and unresolved details, which serves perhaps as a metaphor for nature and creativity as dynamic processes rather than illusions of an always-perfect unity.

     Of paintings presented at the Soo Rye Art Gallery, we could group the images into three sets: small portrait studies of a variety of songbirds, often head studies; medium-sized action portraits, usually with carefully selected props or an individual in flight; larger paintings that present a duet or other grouping of birds.

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