Be it public or personal, spiritual or material, enduring or ephemeral, there’s a natural human impulse to make note of the significant. In his upcoming exhibit “Shades of Significance,” celebrated Denver painter and mixed-media artist, Michael Gadlin, will explore the infinite shades of significance in an eloquent visual language, at once deeply individual and instinctively universal.
Gadlin charts his visual stories of human significance in sweeping lines, potent shapes and emergent forms, images and ideas flowing across expansive canvases in a mesmeric dance of order and chaos. This artist’s intention is that each beholder and each painting arrive together at that meaning, which resonates most powerfully between them.
“I’m inspired by what possibilities come from any creative process,” Gadlin explains. “There’s no language for what’s in my heart until I paint.”
Michael approaches each new canvas as creatively unmarked and receptive to possibilities, as the pristine surface before him. Emerging lines and shapes guide his hand, direct his thoughts, suggesting new perspectives, compelling themes, even complementary media. Michael doesn’t express meaning with his brush, so much as discovers meaningful concepts through it.
“Not engaging in a predetermined outline or design allows me to rely heavily on my instincts,” he says, “and some lovely chance.”
He then continues to build his study of human significance by exploring the humble markings found in the streets. As new developments arrive in neighborhoods, Gadlin investigates the visual language gentrification inevitably brings with it. Taking a stroll down a once familiar path, he studies curious technical inscriptions in neon paint, chalk and pen to be seen on walls, sidewalks and bus benches, which are quickly changing the urban landscape. Sometimes beautiful, often incomplete and always arcane, they appear to Gadlin as silent bids for immortality doomed to vanish in a cataclysm of regeneration.
“Although the person viewing those raw marks can’t completely understand them, the marks seem to say, ‘I was here!’ I think they reflect the human need to accomplish, to leave something behind, to be remembered. That’s something I understand very well.”
Perhaps most importantly, there’s just no substitute for authentic inspiration. As all artists must, Gadlin receives his themes from personal experience; complexity and racial confrontations he has encountered subtly ask the question, “What is my place”, and he hints at these in his work with subliminal shapes and aggressive lines that are nurtured to full flower-like-forms. These forms are inspired by the urban environment he feels is his home. With intimate observations and private passions he reveals a deeper meaning to what it really means to be of “mixed-race” in the world.
Finding his own place of significance in this world is one of the most central and recurring themes in Michael’s work. Coming from a mixed heritage, Michael only knew his father as an adult. He found many facets of his African-American father’s character that have inspired his work. His mother, who raised him, was an educated woman from a Dutch and German decent. Gadlin has long questioned precisely which panel he occupies upon the great human tapestry. His background has been a rich experience that has walked the very center of the race spectrum. This has informed his complex work and the ideas he shares about finding home and place. As we all seek the very traditions that make us, Gadlin becomes the material that is the weaving within the rich tapestry of his multi-cultural background. He explores those themes in “Shades of Significance”.
Michael Gadlin began his art education at the Art Students League of Denver, followed by the Metropolitan State University in Denver and the New York’s prestigious Pratt Institute. He received a residency at La Napoule Art Foundation in France. A former host of ArtScene on Channel TV8 and the current host of Arts District on Rocky Mountain PBS, Gadlin keeps close pace with Denver’s fast-evolving arts environment. He sits on the board of directors at both, Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the PlatteForum. Gadlin is a former co-owner of ArtHaus Gallery and the youngest artist ever to win Best of Show at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival; his work is in the collection of the Vance Kirkland Museum’s permanent collection, Mile High Denver, as well as in numerous private collections nationally and internationally.
With at least two dozen new works expected, “Shades of Significance” will both showcase Michael Gadlin’s singular vision, and amply demonstrate why he’s fast becoming one of Colorado’s most significant contemporary artists.