Buller’s ‘Ice’ is a reflection of childhood memories at Julie Nester Gallery
February 23, 2016
Visual artist Philip Buller reached back into his childhood for the nine works that comprise his new exhibit "Ice."
"In this show, I think about ice skating and memories, and the skating is a metaphor for being alive with vulnerability, excitement, risk, it’s all there," Buller said during a phone call to The Park Record from Inside Passage in British Columbia. "I grew up in Northern Virginia and lived by a lake. Winters were cold and I remember nighttime skating and going to the dark end of the lake and feeling that edge of fear, but also alive."
Park City will get an opportunity to see "Ice" and meet Buller when the Julie Nester Gallery hosts an opening reception on Friday, Feb. 26, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Painting skaters was different for Buller, who has painted beach scenes, animals and dancers.
"I found if I paint figures in dramatic action, running or something extreme, it wouldn’t feel right, so, I end up painting imagery that is still or quiet," he said. "With skating, I found you have two aspects. You can go quite fast by gliding across the ice, but you don’t have to move too much. You can just stand and still fly. I can’t think of many other activities like that. And that resonated with me."
Painting, no matter what medium, is the ultimate form of expression, according to Buller.
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"I was a musician when I was in my 20s and traveled around in a folk-rock trio in New England," he said. "Underneath that, visual art was a way for me to express feelings that I couldn’t otherwise articulate, because sometimes I can’t figure out what words will describe my experience. And quite frankly, sometimes there aren’t any."
Still, the artist didn’t think too deeply about that when he first started painting.
"I did feel that I was sort of called to do this," he said. "I didn’t have a choice. It was what fed me, but now that I look back, I see that it was a personal way to express the complexity of my experience."
The works in "Ice" are mostly oils, although Buller started off his career in graphic art and watercolors.
"Medium to me is no more or less important than any decision I make when it comes to my works," he said. "I think the reason oils have been around for a while is because, first off, if done correctly, it lasts a long time."
In addition, oils are versatile.
"There is a lot of potential with oils because you can add or subtract to them," Buller said. "It’s like clay, whereas a lot of other media, watercolor for instance, is more like working in stone.
"If you’re painting in watercolor, the light part of the paintings is the color of the paper and the paint carves away at the scene and makes things darker," he explained. "Whereas in oils, you can put light on top of dark or dark on top of light and go back to light again. You can add to it, but also sand it off and go on and on."
One of Buller’s trademarks is the repetition of an image in his works. Viewers and collectors will see figures duplicated and sometimes triplicated in his pieces.
"That came about as what people call a ‘happy accident,’" he said. "A little more than 10 years ago, I wanted to get more texture on the surface of my oil paintings and I wondered what would happen if I painted through a fiberglass window screen.
"So, I hung a screen on the canvas and painted through it," Buller said. "Afterwards, I laid the screen down and when I picked it up again the residual paint on the screen had left the same image on the other surface."
Having an exact replica of an image he had taken a day to paint struck Buller.
"I found that I could put it anywhere," he said. "So, I developed this process, which is in some ways like print making with oils, although it’s a primitive printmaking."
The repetitions remind Buller of his days playing music.
"In a song, you have a chorus and when you go back to the chorus after a verse, it ties things together for the listener, because they are familiar with it. So, when people see my paintings, they see repetition and their eyes go to it because there is a familiarity to it."
Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., will host an opening reception for painter Philip Buller’s "Ice" exhibit on Friday, Feb. 26, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.julienestergallery.com .
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