Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mele Kalikimaka!

Husband and I went to Kauai, Hawaii on our Honeymoon - First time either of us has been to the Hawaiian Islands. Kauai was absolutely amazing. It has a more rustic feel than I understand the other islands have, but when you see the emerald landscape, the aquamarine waters, the soaring cliffs...your world will change.

While passing through Kilauea on the way to visit the lighthouse, there was a small shopping center where we got lunch (Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza, yummy :)). In that shopping center, I found postcards of artwork by local South Pacific artist, Troy Carney. How I wish I had gotten to see the real art!

Troy Carney - Art of the golden South Pacific

Hanalei Splendor, 11"x14", oil and 23k gold on hand cut bas-relief on wood
Photo via South Pacific Art by Troy Carney Facebook page

(c) Troy Carney
Troy Carney is a self-taught artist who originates from New Zealand but has called Kauai home for the last 24 years. He specializes in mixed media, specifically oil and watercolors, 12-24K gold leaf, and woodcut printing. His influences include his mother (a classically trained fine artist in her own right), his extensive travel through exotic Asia and the South Pacific, and the batik painting traditions of the Balinese textile industry. 

The piece above, Hanalei Splendor, captures the pier in Hanalei Bay at sunset. We watched that sunset over Bali Hai from the beach at Hanalei, so I have a real affection for this piece. The sun really does emanate incredible colors and textures from that vantage point on the island. In my mind, Carney's work here is a perfectly unique, personal, yet relatable interpretation of its beauty. I love the exquisite, unified designs he used to describe the sun's radiance, pulling in an air of tribal symbology. At least it feels that way to me!

Papaloa Jewel, 18"x24", oil, 12k,18k, and 23k gold on hand cut bas-relief on wood
Photo via South Pacific Art by Troy Carney Facebook page
(c) Troy Carney
You can definitely see the Asian art tradition in Carney's work. To me, his renderings of waves are reminiscent of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1829-32), though I can only hypothesize if the Japanese painter was actually an influence. The clouds in the Papaloa Jewel above remind me of Chinese screen painting, though perhaps more stylized. The color contrast between the deep butterscotch of the gold leaf with the peacock and cerulean tones in the landscape (with occasional hints of rust or garnet) really cause his pieces to stand out. The compositions themselves are not necessarily very large, but they make a significant visual impact from the color elements alone (just wait until you study the detail in his carving).

The video below from Troy's YouTube Channel highlights the progression through his artistic process. The particular piece being created in the video is called Po'i Nã Nalu, meaning "Where the Waves Break." Notice the layered process of carving, applying gold leaf, then paint. The violent roll of the wave, shimmering in texture and luminescence, leads the viewer's eye through the expanse of the piece. Your attention sweeps in an arc across the wood with the wave, lulls through the settling, foamy surf onto the beach, then juts upward through the palm trees and mountains. From the mountains, the viewer's gaze circumambulates through the clouds in the sky until they push you back to the wave, starting your journey all over again. 

I find Carney's work so incredibly exquisite, I had to share it with you all. Hopefully we will start to see some of the pieces emerge in the continental US markets outside of California (Come to Georgia!!). I feel that his art brings Asian and South Pacific artistic traditions to us in a new way, modernizing the subject while retaining the exotic flavor and symbolic tone. Enjoy!

Also, one last thing: check out his Facebook page, which shares new artwork, news and updates, and awesome photos of the artist at work. His website has a gallery, even more news and updates, and a biography if you'd like to learn more.

Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas), everyone!

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