On September 28th, Meyer Gallery celebrates small art in a big way with the opening of “Une Petite Nuit.” For this “One Small Night,” more than 25 gallery artists present petite artworks that each measure 16” x 16” or smaller, resulting in an eclectic exhibition featuring a variety of mediums. Artists are excited and challenged to create work from a different perspective, and many find themselves thriving in the intimate experience of working small. We asked several participating artists to reflect on the process, which they found to be personal, experimental and engaging.
“A small painting is a personal thing,” says naturalist painter Shae Warnick. “It’s an object that you can pick up and possess. Small paintings are for you. They feel more precious, like an heirloom.” Shae Warnick feels that artists ironically take bigger risks with small works, as the time investment and material costs tend to differ. “They become a chance to brainstorm,” she says. “The bird paintings I created for the show were experimental in this way. The contours of my birds are always very precise while the internal features are loosely suggested with abstract marks, but for these works I’ve made that suggestion more tight and recognizable.”
Figurative painter Lis Pardoe similarly found that working small inspired varied painting techniques. “Often in my work, I’m rendering balance between loose and tight,” she says. “For the small works show I feel I was able to zoom in on that even more.” Lis Pardoe feels quick gratification from working small in comparison to the extended time spent on larger paintings. Her 12” x 12” self-portrait, “New Leaf” was an explorative and rewarding process. “I experimented with leaving my brushstrokes chaotic and loose in the light areas but broad, heavily glazed and geometric in the dark areas,” she says of creating the work. “I started the painting with the intent of leaving the background abstract and moon patterns, dark leaves, and bold colors resulted.”
While small works may begin as experiments, they often become the most cherished relics to leave the studio. “The small works are usually the ones that I have trouble letting go of,” admits local landscape painter Silas Thompson. “Sometimes they are studies, but for me they are often the prize – like a found trinket from my childhood.” Silas Thompson is emboldened yet challenged by working small as he seeks balance between limited surface area and thick brushwork. “My work for this show is a combination of relying on the style that I’ve developed while pushing bolder compositions, hoping the viewer never fully anticipates what’s coming next,” he says.
Working small is particularly significant to Santa Fe artist Fatima Ronquillo, whose meticulous paintings style easily lends itself to a small canvas. “I did not find my artistic voice until I started painting small,” the classical painter explains. “My younger self had a romantic notion of painting monumental pieces as a grand form of expression. However I realized that I was drawn towards the more introverted, introspective and intimate form of small easel paintings.” Fatima Ronquillo’s “Hand with Metamorphoses” may only be 7” x 5”, but it reveals the mythological inspiration for her wider body of work. “I have been very much inspired by the stories in Ovid’s book “Metamorphoses.” This painting depicts the moment of the nymph Daphne’s transformation into a laurel tree; her hand sprouts laurel leaves and branches as she holds Ovid’s book. She also wears a weeping lover’s eye, representative of her distress.”
Petite paintings call for an engaged viewer experience as we are drawn to examine the detail, texture and brushwork of each piece. Each artist’s distinct characteristics and tuned aesthetic is readily exposed when working small, as the process inspires freedom of expression and intuitive experimentation. In turn, the viewer feels a deeper connection to the style and process of the artist. Please join us as we celebrate the intimacy of art with “Une Petite Nuit” on Friday, September 28th. Preview a sampling of new work in the online exhibition catalog.