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Circle of Hope Gallery in Fishtown will feature for the second showing in as many years Eric Van Nielsen’s abstract work. This show, like his last back in February of 2016, is a sensory playground with that special kind of presence hovering about the canvass that hits the psyche right in the gut. To anyone who prizes originality over hype, please humor the hype, and do yourself a favor and check it out.
Van Nielsen’s recent compositions are a commanding musical chaos of color, texture, counterpoint motion, and a muddy murky soulfulness of deliberate stain, drip, and smear. The density and interplay of color, gesture, and tone within each piece and among the group at large are enough to nourish veterans and newcomers to abstraction alike. The pieces featured are not only buzzing in heightened communication within themselves, but the entire grouping is itself a finely layered and coordinated aviary of brushstrokes and markings collectively chirping aloud.
As fits the occasion of a second showing, the collection is an energized and brooding conductivity of progress — the artist’s progress, and we might assume a wider inescapable theme of relative social progress and struggle surrounding our tattered and panicked historical moment lately. Moments of dark grappling are counterbalanced with radiance and levity. The perseverant drone of charged inquiry — somewhat hazardously, somewhat unassumingly — chases and echoes itself throughout, humming like the open circuits of downed wires.
As with most of Van Nielsen’s pieces, the titles give a playful puzzling shred of narration, offering the viewer an approximate tone of emotion to depart from, despite an equal part of fragmented ambiguity. “And in Broad Daylight Too,” a larger canvas, almost like a reflective soundboard in climatic response to the other pieces, elevates and brightens the lower-registers of conflict in the smaller-sized works as it replaces the unfinished canvas with an all-white gessoed background. The title piece, “Prelude,” appears among a series of four — the others titled: “Sunday,” “Thinking and Speaking of Yesterday,” and “Slower Depths” — all of which deepen and dilate beyond the 18×24 inch canvasses into the rightful abstract realm of psychic verisimilitudes.
People who like their art to be merely pretty or neat won’t find much happening here. These are dense, messy, and moving paintings rich with humor and contradiction for heavy minds and encumbered hearts. Those who are overwhelmed and inclined to stay home on a Friday night stand the most to gain by attending. Although I strongly implore everyone to walk among these paintings a while and be reinforced. You might thank yourself, and while you’re at it, you might thank Circle of Hope for hosting such a fantastic exhibit. The work will remain viewable during open public hours through April 27th.