l e n a r d   y e n   |  p a i n t i n g s

Painted color with its brilliance and viscosity generate harmonies and independent voices that can elicit mood, tension, and ultimately, a story. I'd like my paintings to create a space where the viewer is drawn into a multi-layered tableau by a rhapsodic interplay of color and gesture.

AT ONCE, 2023
Color is present as energy and the means by which I try to express emotions, intuitions, and harmonies. The experience when standing in front of a piece is that it is perceived all at once, awakening memory and feeling in the hopes of imbuing one with being present in the now. Through the articulations of the oil paint itself, color relationships stimulate sensation and dialogue between myself and the painting as well as between the painting and the viewer. The simple act of willingness to connect with an artwork is a step toward community. And further exploration and discovery deepens our sense of place and belonging in the world. So how can I express optimism and wonder through the creative process? How do I learn patience and gratitude, find my voice, seek strength and sufficiency? Seeing myself in others and the work that is inspired are the guides along this timeless journey. As Picasso once said, “If there’s a single freedom in what one does, it’s the freeing of something inside oneself. And even that doesn’t last.”

My recent paintings are explorations of color, perception, and memory. I’m fascinated by the mind’s eye taking us on journeys where imagination roams and gives space to both the artist and the viewer to share what shows up. I love the fluidity of oil paint that can create a limitless spectrum of illusory light and vibration, where areas of presence and absence melt into one another. Often a departure through experimentation leads to a new way of seeing and the mystery begins again. So pull up a chair. As Paul Valery once said, “to see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.”

Holding on and letting go. There is a quiet roar of doubt and faith when I approach the beginnings of any painting. I lean on process and try to reinvent foregone tactics. Reflection becomes part of the exploration, a patient willingness to listen and let the dialogue develop. These recent paintings have helped me look at what I was searching for in different ways and means: a balance point where there is both tension and resolution, seen and unseen, intention and accident, near and far, struggle and surrender, abrupt and gradual, lost moments and found time. As Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”.

Life often takes unexpected turns. Contemplation gives me an opportunity to suspend judgement and surround it with a sense of becoming that helps clarify my response. Can I allow myself to learn ways to face change with compassion and spaciousness, to find peace in myself, to recognize how I treat others, to help those in need? As a painter I process my feelings and experiences through the exploration of balance between the shifting forces of motion and stillness, foreground and background, focus and dispersion.

This most recent series of paintings reflect the emotions that have surfaced during this global pandemic. “within + without” is a meditation on the tragedy that is George Floyd and countless others who face indignity, inequity, and injustice in our complex world that has yet failed to reconcile the spectrum of differences that exist in humanity despite the fact that we are all living together on a gracious and miraculous planet teeming with life from bio-luminescent bacteria to quaking aspens.

Color imparts the vitality of the imagination without words or sound. It is an aspect of our visual perception that has been researched throughout the ages and color experience continues to fascinate us. It arrives to us via reflected or filtered bits of light which are gathered and compiled in the visual cortex and interpreted across the brain. The adventure begins when we are aroused by both the sensory data as well as our attempts at understanding what we are seeing. Color is used for object recognition, to convey meaning, communicate mood, even conjure fantastic images, deep feelings and conceptual thoughts through direct reference or metaphors. The color spectrum has led us to a greater understanding of the composition of stars, the structure of the atom, and the expansion of the universe. This spectrum is made up of a continuum of wavelengths that our visual system enables us to distinguish variations in hue, value, and intensity. Color is perceived instantly and can greatly affect our senses as it exists in both a physical as well as a psychological realm.

These color abstractions came out of a passion for mixing viscous pigment and navigating around color spaces. Light being the source of all color, I find experimenting with the full spectrum an unending delight. It is in our visceral relationship with color and color families where emotion, memory, and resonance are embedded. I paint light as energy, using high chroma hues and corral light into crystalline forms, biomorphic shapes, or through apertures like windows to the beyond. I invite the viewer to engage in these works whose juxtaposition of colors pose both an objective and a subjective concept of reality. They meet in the illusion of massless form and ambiguous space suspended in light.

What lies beyond the cascading colors that fall beside us? A glimmer of tranquility fills the eternal void of space and time. Gradients revolve and dissolve through an ambiguity of motion and stillness.

When I ponder the Pacific Northwest and its often gray and misty atmosphere, the sparks of light and splashes of color are welcome attractions to my palette. My recent work explores the balance of opposing forces in a suspension of formless fields and unresolved moments.
Hard edges and blur, directionality and color shifts, rhythmic pattern and proportion, light and shadow - all contribute to spatial movement as well as emotional depth. By giving color both space and presence, I try to convey a sense of compassion in the ever-changing landscape hurtling by.

DETOUR, 2013
Like syncopation in music, these diversions invite the viewer into a composite surface of mixed (static, flowing, spinning) motions circulating among distinctive color ensembles, textures, and patterns. The often brash palettes joust with each other as fragmented forms fall through space. Space is made emphatic through discontinuity and juxtaposition while rhythms are played out in polka dots and stripes. Foreground, middle-ground and background crossover each other racing to reach the viewer lost on another tangent.

You may see knots and ribbons, following the twists and turns of ambiguous forms through repetition, articulation, and color association. Closely bundled hues vibrate in and out of phase and are often used as a background ostinato. Mixing neutrals built from two or three sets of complements helps set up areas for improvisation and modulation between various color keys. I respond with vivid colors, developing phrases using gestures like armatures upon which these rhythmic swathes are suspended. Extending the moment, nurturing the unexpected, and pi are always on my mind.