The longer you stare at Stan Hennigh's works, the more they unfold: Layers upon layers of colors, glazes and textures create movement, meaning and emotion. Each painting feels like a separate journey to a new place — and sometimes, they literally take you somewhere.
"Many of my long pieces are so big that you have to travel along the painting in order to view it," Hennigh says. "Then they become something of a narrative, rather than a statement, like a piece that can be viewed from one vantage point."
The 54-year-old paints with oil on canvas, but also sparingly uses mixed media. In his works, large, flat, matte areas (reminiscent of color-field painting) get juxtaposed with vibrant, glossy shapes. There are underlying textures, then layers of glazes and colors — some transparent, some opaque — and then more color and texture. The artist sometimes employs impasto (a thick paint application where the brush marks can be seen) unexpectedly on top of a flat background. On one painting, areas that appear carved open and peeled back before the paint dried allow the viewer a glimpse underneath.
Technically, his art is classified as contemporary American landscape and floral painting. But in any single work, suggestions of impressionism, realism and abstract expressionism appear, while recognizable forms combine with illusions, symbols or perhaps spirits.
"Stan's ability to work with glazes shows a deep level of patience," says Lorelei Beckstrom of Rubbish Gallery, where Hennigh's Fascination show opened on May 14. "His work is like an archeological dig of sorts; there is so much that lies buried in the many layers of oil."
Hennigh attended the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland before graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1978. He's been living and working in Boulder and Longmont for the past 35 years, and has enjoyed solo exhibitions in spots from New York to Santa Fe. The Chicago Reader, a well-respected altweekly, has tagged him "an artist to respect, watch and collect over the coming years."
Of the 11 pieces hung against Rubbish's white brick walls, several consist of multiple panels (or canvases) joined together to create one large painting. The largest is "Flowers As Enlightened Beings," which is 2½ by 10 feet and consists of three panels. "Remnants of the Libertine Bride," made up of five panels, is just five inches smaller.
They're both excellent examples of Hennigh's willingness to challenge accepted Western art traditions regarding pictorial space and composition, as well as experiment with the Eastern tradition of extending the horizontal and vertical.
"This is not really a commentary on either style," he says, "but more of an exploration of how things look when the format is challenged ... The show is titled Fascination because I find painting, paint, composition, space, pictorial properties, etc., infinitely fascinating."