In his 1874 manifesto "Modern Painters," John Ruskin wrote: " Our whole happiness and power depend upon being able to breathe and live in the cloud; content to see it opening here and closing there... perceiving a nobleness in concealment and rejoicing that the kindly veil is spread where the untempered light might have scorched or the infinite clearness wearied us." The title of Andras Bality's current show at Coincidence Gallery, "Smoke, Fog And Other Gray Areas," reminded me of Ruskin's writings on the illustrative quality of the artist's sky. There is actually much about Bality that Ruskin would approve of, for Bality's paintings are, in turn, mysterious, merciful, modest and reverent.
Coincidence Gallery's solo exhibit of Bality's work is divided into its three gallery spaces, each area offering aspects of the stylistic facility that Bality is known for, stepping back and forth as he does between impressionistic realism and figurative abstract painting. Bality apologizes for this dichotomy, but he shouldn't. His work is a marvelous opportunity to be able to observe the disintegrative process at work. From this sampling, it seems that the artist is more inclined to abstract the acts of laboring, caretaking and exploring, leaving the innocence and frivolity of friendship and play to the real world.
While I believe Bality's more important and unique work to be the abstract scenes, I enjoy and admire the humanity and simple freedom of the others. The latter are a lesson in acknowledging that any good work requires retreat and revision. If there was one suggestion to be made in these works, it might be to avoid hasty facial features. "Before the Storm" suffers a bit from this small but awkward detail. Bality is better when he relies on shadow and posture to identify people.
There is a decidedly Eastern European feel to Bality's abstract work. Blended into the bright, arduous fields of color of works such as "Winter Pruners" is the even glare of Nicolas de Stael. In the darker painting "Late Frost," indefinite in the tangled branches and anxious sky, is the barely perceptible lament of Anselm Kieffer. But the paintings are nonetheless wholly Bality. They will likely serve the future function of being themselves referenced when describing a painting style. I do not doubt this.
Bality has a skill for making parables of the quotidian. His stop-action arrangements propose the infinite within the immediate, even though he identifies them as fugitive moments. It is said that before and after enlightenment the same daily struggle occurs. In Bality's paintings there is the secret hunch of afterwards. It is a quiet, knowledgeable reverence, a private blessing, in the air. One senses that the sticks that must be gathered, the garden that must be hoed or staked, all mean something so simple that it's hardly worth mentioning, and so important that to speak it would destroy
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