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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Conrad Jon Godly

Exacting control with exhilarating freedom--Conrad Jon Godly

Paint which melts into mountains.
Years ago, I can't recall exactly when, in writing about painting with a palette knife, I compared it to spreading peanut butter and jelly on toast while trying to create a recognizable image. It's both terribly frustrating and extremely liberating. There's a freedom of expression that goes with loosely "slopping" paint around that is about as close to sheer ecstasy as painting allows. At the same time, there is a delicate demand for skill and expertise that evokes just the opposite extreme, an agony demanding excru-ciating finesse. It's the proverbial "agony and ecstasy" as the artist first combats the naturally unruly tendencies of the mass quantities of paint entailed, coupled moments later in an allying with the same pigments and medium resulting in ex-quisitely natural colors, textures, shapes, and spaces. At no other time in the art of painting does "practice make perfect" become more of a factor. Every artist is beset at one time or another with a fear of failure. In this regard, painting with a knife is by far the most fearful technique an artist can employ. One means of overcoming this fear is to see it done see it done in the work of the Swiss painter, Conrad Jon Godly.

Conrad Jon Godly. The man must buy his paint by the barrel.

Godly's mountains are seldom framed. Paint
often hangs in globs from the bottom edge
 of his canvases.
Conrad Godly was born in 1962. He grew up in Davos, Switzerland; later studying to be a painter at the Basel School of Art from 1982 thru 1986. Then for the next eighteen years he worked as a professional photo-grapher. He made for himself a career capturing the latest fashions for well-known magazines. Eventually, how-ever, Godly began to notice a gradual loss of passion for his work. He loved painting and yearned to return to his fine art roots, but had fears about whether he could subsist as an artist, especially after eighteen years having not done so. Despite his doubts, Godly left his role as a photographer in 2006 to seek solace among the mountains of Chur, Switzerland. Godly's images de-rive from photographic sketches, which he makes on his wanderings. Yet never, does he depict his subjects from a single photo. Instead, he studies photographs of the mountains and then creates his own on canvas. Small and great mountains, rocks, snow, fog, lots of light, Godly paints the pictures in a single session without once taking a step back. For small works (he paints all sizes) Godly sometimes needs as little as five strokes. His biggest brush is 70 centimeters (just over two feet) wide. He's extreme in his work, taking no half-measures.

From mountains to molehills, scale means little to Godly.
Sol 15, 2013. Godly's paintings do
not bear traditional titles but are
numbered consecutively by year.
The most successful painter is one who only paints what he or she wants yet makes a lot of money doing so. Godly paints nothing but mountains. His Studio is located in an old factory in Sils in Domleschg, about 20 minutes from his home in Chur. Except for a few canvases and a table with three tubes oil paint, the room is empty. Light falls from a skylight illuminating a group of painted images piled with thick layers of paint. Only from a distance do the colors spring to life. The mountainous images awaken; mist drifts over the ridges; rocks glow in the moonlight. Gallery owner, Tony Wuethrich comments, "Conrad manages to capture the soul of the mountains. When looking at his magical landscapes there comes a longing con-nection that is overwhelming." Godly says in carefully chosen words that beauty for him is more than mere surface. "A more perfect beauty than nature does not exist for me." You'll see no trace of human presence in Godly's work. He considers everything made by man as a mere attempt to move closer to natural beauty.

The extreme range in sizes allows galleries to present Godly's work in groupings.
Most of us have seen landscape paintings depicting mountains, using a variety of methods, usually as a means of forming a background for some foreground center of interest. Conrad Godly uses a visual trick he has perfected in both large and small-scale paintings. In seeing Godly’s mountainous paintings, it takes a moment to realize the amazing skill behind what seems to be such an effortless application of paint. Up close (below, center), the landscapes appear to be a thick, almost random mix of blue, white and black, oils mixed with turpentine to create a thick impasto that Godly often leaves dripping from the canvas. Taking a few steps back and miraculously you might as well be looking at a photograph of the Swiss Alps (bottom, left).

Spes, 2013, Conrad Godly
Sometimes a little green creeps in.
A mountainous abstraction up close.
Sol 82, 2013, Conrad Jon Godly


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