Jeffery Pugh "Bones and Bison"

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Jeffery Pugh: Process & Inspiration for “Bones & Bison”

Jeffery Pugh’s western landscapes are structured compositions with distinct horizon lines, sharply angled barns and balanced herds of grazing cattle or bison. From a distance his paintings invoke a graphic, illustrative quality but closer observations reveal tactile layers of paint, raw brushstrokes and softened shapes. “I want to remind people that it’s still a painting,” says Pugh of his style, which is executed almost exclusively with a palette knife. “When you get close to it there’s so much going on. The variations of color are very nuanced, which you can’t necessarily see from a distance.”

The nuances of color that Pugh refers to can often be found around the edges of mountains or rural architecture, or in the thin space between land and sky. Here, primary colors and pigments are thinly layered, activating the other colors and shapes around them. This technique is called “halation,” which Pugh picked up from studying the landscapes and even food paintings of Wayne Thiebaud, one of his artistic heroes and inspirations. Pugh has recently begun to incorporate this technique into more complex areas of his paintings as well, within field patterns and around focal points such as trees and animals, to give more pulse and depth to his images.

Pugh’s process isn’t just technical - his emotions and personal life play a significant role in the outcome of his landscapes. The artist attaches narratives to his imagery as he paints; these symbols are rarely discernable to the viewer but provide meaning for the artist. “The Golden Age,” for example, is what Pugh refers to as a “gateway painting,” a pastoral scene that is broken up by a fence line with an arched entryway. In the foreground are two cows grazing, which represent Pugh and his wife. Beyond the fence line and off in the distance is a larger herd, seemingly striking out on their own. This group represents Pugh’s children as they venture out to pursue their own life journeys. “I’ve been adding more personal references into the paintings over the last five years,” explains Pugh. “I could continue painting landscapes my entire life, but I wanted them to mean more to me.”

Bones & Bison, Jeffery Pugh’s 2018 Solo Show, opens this Saturday, February 17th from 6-9pm.