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Gallery Spotlight: Encaustic Painting at Addington GalleryExcerpted from Chicago Art News
I asked Dan Addington if I could write about his gallery in my own words based on a number of conversations we’ve had. It’s fun talking to Dan about encaustic art because he’s passionate about the medium and the way each artist uses it differently.
Let's step back and start with the basics of encaustic painting. Point one, it’s ancient, dating back to the 4th century BC.
And point two: painting with wax is very hard to do, it’s hard to control, and you have to work fast because wax goes from molten-lava-hot to dried candle wax in about 10 seconds. And like other mediums in which it’s difficult to master the basics, when a medium like this grows in popularity, a lot of the practitioners get lost in the technique, they become “Encaustic Painters” rather than artists who have to be working with Encaustic materials. And with this popularity, classes follow, which evolve into academic studies and before you know it…. there are a whole lot of rules.
Dan Addington is, himself, an encaustic painter – and he’s been doing it a long time, before it got trendy. In turn, he’s a fan of Howard Hersh, Mark Perlman and others who have been doing it even longer than him, before the schools and the hobbyists got their hands on it. Before the rules were written. So Addington’s aesthetic, and Encaustic posse could possibly be defined in that way: pre convention.
Addington builds his paintings up layer by layer, drawing on and gouging into the surface, adding oil paint, tar, fabric and other odd materials into the mix, which gives the work a very textural feel.
Now, Howard Hersh, who was featured in a recent exhibit and is represented by the gallery, is also pre-rules, yet he has a completely different approach, and balances the geometric with the inherent chaos of encaustic.
So how to tell the Encaustic painters from the artists who work with wax? Addington gravitates to work that has a conceptual level to it, artists who are going for a specific idea, and not just expressing their feelings through random splashes of color.
As Addington pointed out, “Encaustic has a visual archaeology that exists in each piece. Because you can see the translucent layers, it opens the door to the process. With much painting, the top surface is often the only surface the viewer can access. With encaustic, you can dig down through the layers and see the history…”