Frank Gardner is an American painter (and art instructor) currently residing and working in Mexico. Oil is his medium; he applies it to cotton and linen canvases to create outdoor scenes and landscapes involving farm, urban and marine subject-matter. Frank Gardner publishes his work online on his blog and on his website. Many of his works are for sale via art galleries listed on the galleries page of his website. In today’s review I would like to talk about his village/urban scenes and particularly the puzzling and captivating contrast of the small human figure and the surrounding monumental buildings.
The town residents, usually workers, move in a space confined by walls so high as to almost define them colossal. For me, it is obvious that the artist aims to juxtapose the structures with the people, using space as a compositional means. The question arises: what is the purpose of this comparison, what idea, or, perhaps, agenda the artist wants to forward? It seems that the answer to this question lies within the paintings themselves — a common theme they present, to be precise.
On general terms, the scenes capture the spirit of a community: the depicted work, converse and tread in an environment not dissimilar to an ant hill. I think that the painter wanted to stress that people, as a community, precede their concrete surroundings, despite the small size; one ant standing near an ant hill may seem unimportant, yet it means everything in a “human ant hill.” It is the community that emerges as the thematic safe haven, not the city, which merely forms the outer shell, however impressive.
The massive walls overlook the small figures yet, somehow, seem sleepy and appeased (at the first glance), as if exhausted by the sun. The buildings resemble giants — though I would not necessarily vouch for their gentleness. They store a lot of energy, and it’s unclear how it could erupt, if at all, and for what reason. I think that eventually this indeterminacy and lack of will emphasize human control and domination. Indeed, the architectural motif of the building in the piece you see below, if personified, would appear subservient: imitating the paws of a giant sphinx, with claws retracted before the walking woman, or a face with its gaze directed downward, in an expression of obedience.
To sum up, a few words (more in the following reviews) on Frank Gardner’s style. His choices of sometimes very surprising locations and edgy, unconventional compositions that produce unexpected geometrical shapes, labyrinths or heavily unbalanced configurations, they all point to high painterly confidence. Original viewing angles reveal a master whose foremost skill may lie in identifying the best location for his next painting, at least when working en plein air. Often I feel as if presented with an object or a theme from the side of the tail rather than of the head — a creative attitude that signifies a fresh approach, one which apparently became the norm for the artist.