“Visual Rhythm” is the perfect name for Seattle photographer John Anderson’s new show, except for one thing. That “Rhythm” should really be in the plural, because in every shot so many different rhythms are going on at once.
They all add up to a “beautiful confusion” — a title Anderson gives to a whole series of photographs, two of which are in this show at Linda Hodges Gallery.
“Beautiful Confusion 27,” a color chromogenic print from 2010, has pride of place in the exhibit. Shot near La Push on the Olympic Peninsula, it shows a small, ripple-patterned sandbar islet afloat in a pond of calmed seawater. The water’s surface reflects both the stirrings of currents beneath it and the pattern of high, cloud-dotted sky above it.
The result: an image that seems simultaneously to float and dizzily recede.
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“Dune Composite” — a huge collage of 16 rectangular black-and-white Death Valley sand-dune shots — is, by contrast, a theme-and-variations epic, drawing on all the shadowed/wind-sculpted patterns that dunes can muster. It’s a rich, ricocheting affair, with shape answering shape from image to image.
Elsewhere, Anderson’s eye is trained on volatile water flow. In “Spiral,” a plunging, whitewater creek slides through a gap in rock formations with centrifugal force, forming a whirlpool.
“Denny Creek” depicts a more sinewy stretch of stream, its waters almost muscular in their tension as they flow over boulders. The same is true of “Rushing Downstream,” where the water movement is so blurred, fast and fanlike that you may find yourself mentally “skiing” down its swift unstoppable surface.
In nearly every shot, Anderson draws contrasts between still, solid elements (cliff faces, sand formations, boulders) and fluid or vaporous elements (rushing waters, mountain mists, changeable skies). What makes these images strike deep and seem something more than “nature photography” is the way they mirror life’s own rush of experience, with crystalline, perishable moments indelibly caught in the turbulent flow.
At Davidson Galleries, Bainbridge Island artist Dion Zwirner’s show, “Patterns in Time … Images from Within,” does something similar. Its dozens of works on paper, using watercolor, gouache, acrylic and graphite, take inspiration from nature’s continual balancing act between unfolding patterns and random, organic shapes.
Some of her titles — “Willow Herb,” “Fall Tideland,” “Night Sky in Winter” — suggest an illustrative treatment of outdoor scenes. But something more filtered and processed is going on here, as Zwirner plumbs nature’s rich vocabularies and summons from them semiabstract forms.
“Soft Cool Breeze,” for instance, transforms the intangible into the visible, as greens, grays and yellows brilliantly ebb and flow, without quite precipitating into a concrete image.
In “Glow,” there’s a suggestion of fire on a mountain ridge — but a suggestion is all it is. What matters more is the way Zwirner’s veined blue-gray and tawny washes of color form downward and upward sweeps, accented at the upper left by dense glowing flecks of red-black.
All Zwirner’s works in the show have the intimate, color-rich allure of illuminated manuscripts (they’re no larger than a manuscript page). They also have a kinship with the suffusions of shape and hue in the glorious later work of J.M.W. Turner.
What Zwirner and Anderson have in common is the way they transcend mere observation. Instead, they craft rich, interpretive, nature-derived images that have meanings on multiple planes.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com