“Passage” may be defined as “the process or means of transit,” a “transition from one state to another,” a “short section of a book or music.” Patrick Willett’s spare landscapes register all these impressions. The quiet marblecolumned interior of the History’s Museum’s State Court atrium is a fine contemplative space to view this series of muted palette watercolors; a personal narrative in starkly isolated scenes of specific physicality that the artist qualifies as, “distinctively American intersections of access and egress.” Culminating in an exhibition spanning work over the last decade Willett’s light touch and sure sense of placement hold these images in the imagination like film stills as if in anticipation of accompanying subtitles or sound track. Sites such as the long derelict Customs house adjoining the International Bridge at Squaw Island—even the bridge itself—lonely vistas depicting viaducts and railroad cuts suggest in these scenes, unmarked by human intervention, an abiding sense of longing; for a passing train, a car, a biker—and yet still wanting nothing to intrude on the solitary perspective of empty rails, and roadways. The artist gives the Cherrios plant an articulation of solidity and scale enhancing its monolithic character. His treatment of surfaces allows the viewer a chance to see the underside of roads and bridges intertwining matrices of curves and grids. The cantilevered vantage point of a work depicting the ivy clad turrets of the Richardson complex heightens a sense of its predominance as a 19th Century architectural archetype.
Watercolor is a medium easily overwrought. Willett’s relaxed practiced brush leaves traces of page white in strokes gathered in light wisps and bold flares of color pulling the viewer into each scene with a rush of acceleration transiting into an existential distance beyond.
The exhibit at the Buffalo History Museum continues through August 29.
In this selection of my watercolor paintings
that span most of the last decade, I explore the conduits, connectors and
structures that we move through both figuratively and literally. My lifelong
fascination with these distinctly American intersections of access and egress has
been influenced by many experiences such as hopping trains and walking bridges as
a teenager, spending time in the huge convergent spaces of train yards and witnessing
nature’s reclaiming of buildings that cry out to be remembered.
The movement of human beings and the invisible connections between everything
around us evokes an almost kinetic energy in my work. The passing of buildings
from optimal use to obsolescence is also part of my thinking in these paintings
as well as how the passage of us all from birth to death connects us to our
environment in unseen ways.
Something known to all of us, one of the basic elements of life, when water is blue it is a healthy sight.
—John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Studio Hart Gallery is presenting a series of small-scale works on paper in ink and watercolor by Patrick Willett, curated by Gerald Mead.
Viewing these framed scenes of lush waterways from riparian vantage, the rhythms of Brazilian composer Antonio Jobim’s stream-of-consciousness composition, The Waters of March, came to mind.
At first appearing as fresh plein d’air sketches worked out of doors, on closer inspection the deep rich surface texture of pen and ink emphasizes the artist’s careful attention to detail, working his images over time to give the appearance of the river’s flexing muscle in passages of agitation and repose. Willett’s eye for the subtle energies of nature is sharp. Like a minimalist Burchfield, he works muted tonalities of ochre, blue, and gray green to set an emotional tone for each fluid vision. Willett’s glinting glimmering ripples hint at strong psychological undercurrents in the artist’s work.
Followers of geomancy, or sacred geometry, posit Western New York—at the confluence of Lake Erie and the Niagara, racing toward each other at a four-knot chop—as drawing the friction from both bodies of water in a kind of magnetic pulse creating a desire to witness nature at a spiritually significant location.
The viewer may find in these undulating vistas an aid to imagination made almost audibly present.
Arist: Patrick Willett // Title: "Urnes Cicada" // "Currents: Recent Watercolors by Patrick Willett" // Through March 31 in Studio Hart
The cicada is a creature imbued with all manner of ancient meanings, an insect that becomes a periodic fascination when it emerges toward the end of its lifespan for a few weeks every 13 or 17 years. It also fascinates the painter Patrick Willett, who produced a series of watercolors of cicadas in the midst of a recent illness. (Three of them are now on view: One in Studio Hart, one in Buffalo Arts Studio and one in the Benjaman Gallery.) He painted the piece while listening to the distinctive chirp of a cicada in his yard, and it seems the act of painting it served to distract and comfort him in a time of personal distress.
During his recent opening in Studio Hart, Willett said that the cicada simply seemed like an ancient creature to him -- something that spoke to old traditions and cultures mostly unknown to us today. If you peer closely at his cicada's anatomically accurate wings, you'll see strange swirls and filigrees. They are embelleshments in the "urnes" style, a kind of Viking art that also bears a resemblance to Celtic decorative patterns. The wings of Willett's ancient cicada are filled with ancient references, a fact that imbues this painting with a kind of comforting heft. It's at once classically beautiful and freighted with ancient meaning -- just like a the cicada itself.
Painter Patrick Willett captures the ebb and flow of nature in Studio Hart’s ‘Currents’
For some artists, the act of painting or drawing can be a cheap and effective brand of therapy. That’s the case with a recent body of small-scale work by Buffalo watercolorist Patrick Willett opening Friday in Studio Hart (65 Allen St.).
The show, “Currents,” features ink and watercolor paintings on paper that depict surging waterways and windblown fields in a free-handed way that gives the viewer a sense of motion. The pieces, Willett said in his statement for the show, are an attempt to “capture the rhythm of energy that surrounds us in everything we see, hear and touch” and draw on natural rhythms such as “the ancient humming of the cicada, the ebb and flow of the rivers and lakes and the grinding of rock by rapids.”
Willett wrote that he created the pieces under some difficult personal circumstances, information that provides food for thought about the way art – both creating it and looking at it – can be a much-needed refuge and relief.
Driving through Downtown Buffalo you are reminded that the City of Buffalo was once a giant behemoth of Industrial prowess. From the Canals to the Skyway and the Grain Mills that dot the Landscape; these hulking, rusting monuments from a bygone era are reminders that Nature is forever an artist and architect. Local contemporary artist Patrick Willett uses watercolors to tell the autobiographical story of many of buffalo’s recognizable and sometimes forgotten architectural testaments.
Nature is a focal point of interest for Patrick. Many of his paintings are typical landscapes of trees and the scenic outdoors; however he captures nature in his industrial architecture paintings as well. These paintings reveal the healing and renewing aspects of the landscape especially how nature has found a way to slowly reclaim the materials and structures that man once made.