Small says he thinks mostly about color, texture, and if possible, dimension. But for some fans of painting who attended the opening of his show on July 11, the images seem haunted with details he may not have consciously endowed them with. Those include shapes lurking in the corners of each panel, perhaps the manifestation of some unconscious story – full of drama, passion, and conflict, and even sometimes evoking emotional states like love.
Some of the pieces are filled with patches of light and dark, pushing the viewer to choose a side in the dream-like conflict going on across the canvas.
Small works almost exclusively in alcohol ink, an unpredictable medium for several reasons. First, he doesn’t always know what will happen when he creates, so each painting becomes a journey of discovery. Second, the ink – unlike paint or acrylic – dries quickly, freezing first images in place. While the ink can be brought back to life again by applying a little more, this changes the image, which sometimes frustrates Small, who might have liked his original idea.
Perhaps it’s this tendency to change in midstream that gives each of Small’s pictures a sense of constant motion, even after the ink has dried.
Small says he loves color. But not all the paintings he has on display at the Majestic are bright and cheery. Pretty images are not his intention. His work evokes moods, some using an extremely limited color palette. One piece uses only black ink.
Curated by Kristin J. DeAngelis, Small’s show called “Free to Fly” will run in the lobby of the Majestic, 222 Montgomery St., until Nov. 4.
“I’ve become free to do my art.” – Bryant Small
Small has been a resident of Jersey City for nearly two decades. He is a native of Washington, D.C., where he attended The Duke Ellington School of Arts, studying writing and acting.
He came to the metropolitan area to attend school at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He had it in his head that he would like to be involved in fashion and its promotion, a career he still maintains by day, while painting by night.
One piece is appropriately named “3 a.m.” because he is often up at that time painting.
While he has always been involved in art even as a small child, he says his creative juices really started to flow about two years ago.
Small became enamored with alcohol ink when his mother – also an artist – suggested it to him after having seen it used on jewelry. He took to it right away.
“It all starts with color,” he says, noting how the medium makes color “pop out” for him.
He says he’s not interested in realistic painting, but seeks abstraction, and stretching the limits of alcohol ink especially to create dimension.
While he may not seek to create realistic images, each of his pieces possesses some spirit he says he connects with, and his art has allowed him to spread his own artistic wings for the first time.
“I’ve become free to do my art,” he says.
Although the ink dries quickly, each piece can take a long time to complete, days or even weeks, wrestling to find the spirit he hopes to evoke.
While this is his first solo show in Jersey City, Small recently had a solo show in Brooklyn, and has been part of as many as 50 multi-artist shows in and out of Jersey City over the last few years.
While he admires artists like Maxfield Parish, Kandinsky, and recently Picasso, he says he avoids being influenced in that regard,
“I’m trying to find my own authentic voice,” he says, and believes that he can stand out using alcohol ink. “I’ve seen other artists using this, but I believe what I do stands out from them.”
For more information about his work visit www.bfly777.com.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.