GOING DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE - RECENT WORK BY MALCOLM BRAY
Foreword by Gary Snyder - September 2012
The best artists go down a rabbit hole and don't come back. What begins as exploration becomes experiment, then choice, passion, commitment and finally a way of life.
This was true of my father, Barry Snyder, who had artist instincts as a child and, after a stint in the army near the end of the Korean War, went to art school for two years, made art for the first part of his adult life while working to support his family, and then, plunging fully down the rabbit hole, dedicated himself to creating paintings, drawings, and sculpture until his death four years ago.
If you met my dad, there was no question that you were in the presence of an artist. It wasn't just the beat-up clothes, long hair, or earring - it was the shape of the encounter, the unexpected body of the conversation, and the clear and open invitation into the world of art and artist that was my late father.
My father had many friends, but some friends were more special than others. Malcolm Bray was one of them - a caring and giving friend to my father, especially in his last difficult years. My father was both a mentor and friend to Malcolm - he was honest with his critiques, and referenced a lifetime of experience as an artist and art dealer. He would speak of de Kooning, Soutine, Cage, and O'Keeffe with authority. But perhaps more than his knowledge and critiques, my father embodied being an artist until the end of one's days, and that might have struck Malcolm the most, for Malcolm has worked and worked and worked for many years, and his recent paintings, in my opinion, are not only his best, but are better than many and most paintings that I see around me.
I don't say this lightly, and I wouldn't have said this so strongly a few years ago - I always liked Malcolm's work, and appreciated his direction and the struggle that was his art. But part of going down the rabbit hole is knowing and trusting that there are riches to be found if one keeps going, and Malcolm has hit gold of late.
The German philosopher Hegel wrote that transcendence is as much a process of incorporation as of rejection. Malcolm comes out of a tradition, now over 60 years old, of Abstract Expressionism, an extraordinary movement in our art history that allowed and celebrated spontaneous creation and painterly gesture, and suggested that art can emerge as an equivalent to an eternal present, felt powerfully by the artist, and, ideally, as painting, able to communicate that same feeling to the viewer.
Malcolm has certainly incorporated Abstract Expressionism, and Willem de Kooning in particular, but his own voice has emerged, and the beauty and originality of that voice and the transcendence felt as part and parcel of each painting takes the viewer someplace new. There is a lightness of being in this work, an escape from the "heaviness" of classic abstract expressionism. Unlike a de Kooning, one can almost "see through" a Malcolm Bray painting - there seems to be a white light emanating out from the canvas, and in this white light, lines, marks, gestures, and forms dance in poetic equilibrium.
Somehow, Bray makes his paintings feel like collages, and this is an aspect of the work that is particularly post-modern and jarring. A lush brush stroke can end abruptly, as if cut with a paper cutter, or torn out of a book. And Bray takes risks - in the upper right corner of "And the Sweet Silver Song of a Lark", a clean semi-circle looks like a stain from a coffee cup.
In his recent book, "Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity", filmmaker David Lynch writes: "Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you've got to go deeper."
With this recent body of rich and provocative paintings, it is clear that Malcolm Bray has journeyed deeper, and that he is someone to watch as he continues down and through the rabbit hole that is his life as a gifted artist.
scapa2012 oil on canvas 76 x 62 IN
and the sweet silver song of a lark2012 oil on canvas 72 x 54 in
SPURN POINT 2011 OIL ON CANVAS 80 X 70 IN
BLUE GREEN DESCENDING 2011 OIL ON CANVAS 144 X 105 IN