The promo for Studio Feruvius’s two-person Erector Square art exhibit, “Abundance: Art/Love,” admonishes would-be patrons to: “forget about chocolate, flowers and sappy cards this year for Valentine’s Day ... Support local artists and take home an original work of art!”
The marketing statement is a reminder that art is an investment of lasting value. It is not necessarily a knock against chocolate, flowers or ... well, maybe sappy cards.
The exhibit, located at 315 Peck St. Building 3, Unit M, features inner-worldly pen drawings by Daniel Eugene and Jennifer Jane’s photographs, taken during her one-year sojourn through Central America and other points South. Jane closed her own Westville bricks-and-mortar photography gallery two years ago before exploring alternative methods of marketing art and before embarking on a spontaneous international adventure that would see her find love, explore countries and cultures, and even earn credentials as a dive master during a stint in Honduras.
Through the use of social media and personal networks, artists sometimes exercise the option of not having to rely on formal gallery space as their primary method of exhibiting work. The imperative to self-exhibit can be driven by economics, but it also allows the artist more control over how and when images are seen and experienced.
In the case of the Studio Feruvius exhibit, an “abundance” of hanging artwork rose above the viewer’s eye line, nearly reaching the tall industrial ceiling. More works poured out of the artist’s work space and down a long hallway leading from the studio.
The timing of the show, not during the usual City Wide Open Studios that draw thousands over several days to the Erector Square location, afforded viewers time to peruse work and speak with the artists in a relaxed environment that encouraged exploration.
For artist Daniel Eugene, the process of both creating and showing his work is all about dialogue—an inner dialogue that he nourishes and documents, and an external dialogue with art viewers that he believes is the critical purpose of art. “All art should speak for itself, but the great artists are able to speak about their art,” he asserted. It is clear that Eugene thinks a lot about his visual art. His inquiries are also a constant examination of life itself: “Art must be lived in order to be alive. If it’s only on the wall, it’s not fulfilling its purpose.”
Eugene began keeping a daily journal in 2010 which evolved into a work of art: “Journals are a revelation—reading, writing, and visual art are all mutually supportive. Writing is where I substantiate myself. The journal transcribes the hieroglyphics into the communicable. During the act of drawing—the motion of the hand is a byproduct of my submergence into my deeper self.” Eugene said he prefers the direct quality of pen and ink as he transposes his introspective journeys into the visual expressions that now fill his studio.
Over the last few years of developing an extensive visual vocabulary of marks, symbols, and a personal iconography, Eugene’s images have expanded in size and meaning. Images include tight, rippling, topographic linear abstractions. They are suggestive but not necessarily derivative of the work of British artist Bridget Louise Riley and her famed Op Art images. The work ranges to more “collaged” works flowing with personal symbols, natural and biomorphic forms, and beautifully weaved line patterns that sometimes envelop or co-exist with patches of geometric delicacy. Eugene comfortably expresses both highly formal compositions and asymmetrical works of meditative randomness.
In order to make his time-intensive creations more accessible to the general public, Eugene has begun experimenting with archival digital prints of his work, enlarged and manipulated to create subtle variations of the original smaller images. Having teamed with notable area photographer and mentor John Hill, Eugene noted that the larger images encouraged by Hill are printed on high quality, archival rag paper. The larger images seem to hold the capacity for more sustained engagement with the viewer and suggest a possible new direction in his work.
If the impressive mark-making by Eugene is informed by a process of self discovery, it is also given meaning by his muses, among them author Henry Miller and diarist Anaïs Nin, whom Eugene quotes freely: “The personal life, deeply lived always transcends into truths that are universal.”
Collaborating with photographer Jennifer Jane, according to Eugene, made aesthetic sense. Both bodies of work speak of journeys of discovery and of lives “deeply lived”—Eugene’s internal journeys of self discovery and Jane’s journey into the exterior physical world of foreign countries, villages, homes and people. Jane said that the images in the show represent about 10 percent of her travel collection and that each image is a capsule of her discovery of people, places, and moments in time that required reflexive action in order to record visual treasures that can sometimes disappear as quickly as they present themselves. “I always had my camera with me” she noted.
Her year abroad included encounters experienced with the fresh eye of a traveler, but also with the eyes of someone who stopped along the way to work, learn and absorb. Her images seem to capture those special Henri Cartier-Bresson “decisive moments,” moments of which the 20th century photojournalist wrote, “I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.” Jane’s series of photographic images, like the line drawings of Daniel Eugene, emerge from the eyes of a keen observer who embraces life and then graces us with a window on that experience.