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Gregg Laananen

Construction #91.jpg

Gregg Laananen, Composition # 91, oil and found wood, 12 x 12 x 1.25 in

i.e. is pleased to have Gregg Laananen return for his second solo exhibit with us.

Skagit Valley painter Gregg Laananen, though self - taught, follows closely in the foot steps of the group known as the Northwest School of Art. He began painting from life, en plein air, in the woods, mountains, farmlands and coastlines of the Skagit. His matererials were always oil on board, humble and straightforward, and his landscapes,  built up layers of oil applied with palette knife, had  a strong sense of geometry and vitality depicting the essence of a place.
Laananen often painted with friend, Ed Kamuda. Kamuda had shown him where to find the best cast off wood piles to scavenge board to paint on. This Kamuda had learned from Clayton James. And so legacies are handed down along with aesthetics. Paper bags, roofing paper, old wood become part of the defining style.
In the past 5 years Laananen's painting practice has become more commonly in the studio rather than out in nature. And in this time his work has become more abstract. While still interested in working with a palette knife and building up the surface with daubs of color, he now reaches  towards a memory or feelings of a place as a source or subject. And the practice of locating old wood has led to the creation of his newer relief work, show for the first time. Referred to as Constructions and Totemi, they are more wood than paint, but echo the place where Laananen has been all along.


Gregg Laananen on his work

On the paintings: 
This new set of paintings wants to distinguish the hidden rhythms of nature through color and gesture. Guided by feelings, each is a portrait of a mood, of a state of lucidity.  They are devoted to those secret worlds through which the poets struggle for infinite resonance.  

On the Constructions:
Begun by chance and as a way to shun or avoid the making of art, the Constructions turned out to be something more and became a new direction in making.  I suppose they are also inspired by a growing interest in studio pottery and the applied arts.  All are what we now call "upcycled" by which I mean that they are assembled from found woods, and fastened together by nails and/or screws and wood glue, and painted on with oil paints.  Essentially they are relief paintings in a sculptural form.  By "relief paintings", I mean that they still seem to be using those formal elements that painters use to make two-dimensional paintings.  It is exciting for me to show these in an art gallery for the first time. 

On the Toteemi:
Toteemi is Finnish for totem. Inspired by the ancient cultures of the North, the Toteemi are imbued with imaginative powers like the Finnish väki of the forests. The väki is a power or energy or life force that all animals and objects possess.

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