McKenzie Fine Art | 55 Orchard Street
Tom Leaver has long used the vehicle of abstracted landscape to explore painterly processes. With each body of work there has been a distinct focus in palette and compositional structure. In these new paintings, Leaver’s color choices are more varied, brighter and less monochromatic than in the past. The pictorial space has become fuller and deeper, with distinct horizon lines, meandering bodies of water and trees framing his vistas. However, none of the scenes depicted are based on actual places or even memories of specific topographies. Photographs or sketches are not used, nor does the work make any genuine reference to 19th century predecessors. Instead, the paintings are created gradually in an intuitive and meditative manner as cumulative expressions of the artist’s emotional and spiritual state of mind. Leaver paints almost entirely without brushes, creating the works with gloved hands through sweeps of his palm and dabs of his fingertips. Leaver builds up his paintings over time, and close viewing reveals a varied and layered surface with flickering marks, sensuous strokes and scumbles of paint. A brush is used only to create dispersions with turpentine, and the resulting drips and runs often remain in the final image. Viewed from afar they coalesce into a recognizable but imaginary soft-focus scene which summons the ineffable quality of memory.
In spite of the abstract nature of the process, he has given some of the works titles that reference geographic place names. This playful act of obfuscation adds to the ambivalence of whether his paintings are abstractions of actual landscapes or products of the artist’s imagination. Other titles eschew place names in favor of ambiguous phrases like How Unfortunate, Do You Recall, or, in a series of small paintings executed on wood panels, Names and Places I Have Never Been. Leaver also cites the influence of sound artist Alva Noto, who uses sampled clicks and glitches as building blocks, reshaping the abstracted sound elements into rhythmic structures, in the same manner that Leaver’s mark-making method transforms his vocabulary of abstract elements into recognizable imagery.