Scenes of the City
Artist James Tucker brings lessons from his time as an abstract painter to his contemporary work about people, cities and landscapes
James Tucker, the gallery’s August Featured Artist, enjoys observing people and their interactions. Most fine artists make a habit of regularly sketching and, for Jim, this is a driving passion. Prior to beginning a painting, he will have explored many different compositions in pen and ink. In fact, his black and white drawings are so strong that often they are framed and stand alone as a finished work.
“I love the dramatic tonal juxtapositions you can get with the pen and the subtle shades of gray available with ink wash,” he explained. He finds tonality a central theme of his work, often using cool, bluish tones in lieu of black. A fling with abstract painting gave him wide insight into the difficulty of painting with no discernible subject matter.
“Where in the past I’d been communicating with symbols I shared with the viewer – trees, water, sky, clouds – I now found myself attempting to make a statement without those things,” he added. “Each painting seemed like a “one-off” where I’d solved a particular problem but didn’t know where to go next.” As he returned to more representational painting, he kept the lessons learned in abstract compositions, such as the relationships of shape and division of space, which could easily be transferred to recognizable subject matter. He then turned to painting the human figure, which he now does with semi-abstract shapes and less attention to detail.
Some series come about because of a personal reaction to current events. One series called Wanderers came to mind because of the refugee crises happening around the world.
“There are seemingly endless armed conflicts forcing people from their homes. They become rootless, wandering, going from something but not to anything. I find that very troubling and compelling,” mused Jim. “As I thought about it, I began to consider the process of wandering in much broader terms. I began to wonder if we are all wanderers to a greater or lesser degree. I love stories and I process life in terms of a story. It’s central to my worldview and how I get a sense of psychic order. In my current work, I want to avoid a sense of literalness, but all my painting is about a story.”
The paintings and drawings in Jim’s exhibit, Scenes of the City, tell stories of moments in time captured by an artist who has come to see cities and entities created by generations of people pursuing their visions, dreams and hopes.
“Sometimes they succeed and mostly they fail, but they leave their mark, and those marks become a visual biography,” he said.
Born in Connecticut and raised in South Carolina, Jim is a graduate of the University of Georgia. While working for many years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he studied at the Atlanta College of Art and Callenwolde Arts Center. He has exhibited in several Atlanta galleries. Now living on the Cumberland Plateau near South Pittsburg, he explores the landscapes of the area as well as urban locales in his art.