Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Damon Dowbak: Meditations on Colour and Form

     Damon’s work at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery is immediate and fresh, combining professional craftsmanship with brilliant presentation. He worked for three years on the stained glass pieces and two months on the design and creation of the panels for this show.
     Damon states, “Rather than a boring square frame, I tried to take some of the elements from the pieces themselves. Some of the pieces were irregularly shaped and needed to be tied into something.”
     So the stained glass pieces are set away from the walls. The light from the overhead spotlights bounces off the walls and is captured and reflected by the panels that hold the works.
     “Light traversing through glass produces a colour you can’t get anywhere else,” says Damon. “It’s so vibrant and alive. It really speaks to me, more so than painting. Paint reflects light and isn’t as immediate.”
     Damon used kiln form and fused glass, which is ordered from France and Germany, cut, assembled and fused together in his kiln. This glass is mouth blown/hand made glass, which is silica, soda ash, and lime with metal oxides, which gives it unique colours. Iron is added to make green glass, cobalt and manganese for blue, cadmium, selenium and gold to make yellows, reds, and oranges. He doesn’t make the glass himself. In Europe the glass is made into sheets that are 2’ X 3.’ There are very few companies in the world that produce this kind of glass. “It’s called Antique Glass because the methods of making it go back hundreds of years,” says Damon
     He also painted directly on some works to modify the colours and to diffuse the light with varying thickness of paint. Some of the black and white textures are similar to etchings and there are influences from filmstrips, with amber and red colours glowing, and framed in black. Damon’s influences come from all over, primarily nature, but also from urban settings.
     Damon loves working with glass. He’s created glasswork for more than 35 year, running his Kleewyck Stained Glass Studio on Simpson Street since the late 1980s. “Glass is a unique medium, an amorphous material, not a crystalline substance, so it can be a rigid liquid and change from a molten state and back to a solid state. But it’s not actually changing, it’s always glass.”
    In his works there are hints of 1950s abstraction, a time when art critic Clive Bell’s term “significant form” was used to describe the elements in a work of art that created emotional experiences. The idea was that you could appreciate objects or shapes as pure form and as an end in themselves not requiring recognizable objects in order to influence emotions. This explanation gave artists choices, allowing great freedom to play with different materials. The term fell out of favour because it was all encompassing, and was used to defend some pretty bad art. 
     However the term can be successfully applied to Damon’s work as the forms and colour really are the focus and they really do generate emotional, if not spiritual experiences for the viewer. This is due not only to the forms and colours which are well thought out and planned on paper, but also due to the materials used and their presentation, which is really quite wonderful and very classy.
     Damon is also an accomplished painter, photographer, and musician, having performed with great local and international talent. He has his own Damon Dowbak trio. For the production of work in this show, Damon is thankful for support from the Ontario Arts Council through the Northern Arts Grant. All works are for sale, but you will have to contact Damon directly. This show’s reception opens at 7:30 this Friday, where Damon will give a talk. The show runs from June 14 to September 8. 

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