Jonathan Faber’s paintings feel familiar yet undefinable, like a dream or a memory slowly slipping out of reach. In Alluvial Plane at David Shelton Gallery, Faber’s abstract paintings transported me back to when I was eight years old, collecting washed up buoys on a beach in Maine. Waterlogged and sun-bleached, these buoys were mostly faded, with a few fluorescent moments that had somehow escaped the effects of time. Much in the same way, Faber’s paintings take on these qualities, with a few electric hues in a sea of muted colors. These brilliant works feel as though they have been weathered by time, by the elements, and by the process of painting itself.
The title of the show, Alluvial Plane, comes from the natural phenomenon in which streams and rivers deposit layers of nutrient-rich sediment, slowly creating flat landforms over time. Similarly, Faber reiterates a series of complex painterly processes to create his work. The artist combines layers of dry and waxy applications of oil paint, with sanded, scraped, and etched moments, resulting in rich and layered paintings. There is often a network or grid-like system of striated lines or forms that anchors each work. These paintings feel like they were arrived at slowly, by repeating processes of doing, undoing, and redoing. Faber’s works are about time itself, and the time it takes to make a painting.
The distant, dreamy, and intangible qualities of Faber’s works are further exaggerated with references to objects, symbols, and places in the physical world. There appear to be keyholes, fish, ancient buildings, mountains, horizon lines, suns, moons, far away planets, mysterious creatures, and indecipherable letters — all tangible references, existing within abstraction. In combination, they create the feeling of trying to recall a dream or memory, where some things are more clearly visible and describable than others.
One of the most peculiar and powerful aspects of Faber’s paintings is that they contain multiples speeds. When I was looking at Nocturnal Ripples (Never Come Back), for example, some of the forms and colors immediately leapt out at me, whereas others emerged slowly as I spent more time with the work. Faber strategically combines vibrant and muted tones to enhance the effect of fast and slow speeds within each piece. Creating this illusion is truly remarkable, and is further evidence of Faber’s interest in using time as a medium within painting.
Faber’s works feel tenuously dreamlike, as though they are holding on to something that is disappearing. These gorgeous and exciting paintings are all about time, in their making and in their meaning.
Alluvial Plane is on view at David Shelton Gallery through Saturday, May 13, 2023.
well written review for some really well imagined and executed paintings