Studio visit with Bryan Ida. Thoughts on Origin Myths and Fate…
By Gary Brewer
Bryan Ida is a painter whose work conveys delicate spatial relationships of light and color. He achieves these through a long involved process of layering transparent pigment, a mixture of acrylic paint and polyurethane, on wood panels and then sanding and painting them over again and again. Sometimes he uses as many as 200 coats to achieve his luscious satin finishes. The layers are a visible history of the choices he has made and suggestive of the experiences of the artists life, experiences that inform the nuances within his work. His paintings are a palimpsest; the subtle chromatic shifts from the layers of undercoats affecting the final fugitive color is a pentimento of the journey of making, as well as that of his life.
Bryan explains, “I am having an ongoing conversation in paint using the concept of layering and burying to explore the idea of recollection within a symbolic landscape. Like an archeologist that digs and reveals fragments of human history, the layers represent the passage of time and the importance of memory.”
Bryan’s story of becoming an artist is a fascinating one. Raised in Palo Alto his family was neighbors with the owners of the Smith Andersen Gallery, which represented Sam Francis. Bryan and their neighbor’s children were close friends, and when Sam Francis came to town with his kids, they would all play together and eventually became lifelong friends.
Later, Sam invited Bryan to be his studio assistant, in his studios in Palo Alto and Inverness. A few years later when Sam’s health was declining he moved back to Los Angeles permanently and asked Bryan to move into his 20, 000 square foot studio in Venice Beach to continue working as a studio assistant.
It was during this time, when Sam quit coming to the studio, that he encouraged Bryan to use the space and supplies; with a 20,000 square foot studio filled with canvas and paint, Bryan began to paint.
Although he had been studying electronic music in college, he found painting a natural fit. The immediacy of the process, the physicality of the medium; he felt that paint gave him a greater ability to create something uniquely his own. When Bryan first told me this story I found it deeply moving and profound; the nature of fate and circumstance touching a life and altering its course. To see Bryan’s work in his studio for his upcoming solo show at George Billis Gallery, one can feel the layers upon layers expressing the intricacies of one’s life.
Bryan begins a painting with a design, maybe a geometric pattern suggesting some kind of man made structure; a building, a city, or floating geometries suspended in space. After layers of painting he may add hundreds of bubble-like circles, creating a mist of color. He may allow a few linear pours of paint to suggest a tree in silhouette or some other element may join the composition getting buried in the following layers of pigment. To Bryan there are no straight lines in nature, it is a human abstraction, the idea of perfection in an imperfect world where designs and structures are continually in flux; his paintings express this philosophical conundrum.
Where he starts and where it ends is a journey of choices, a linked verse spoken in a whisper, echoing simultaneously in visual music – a language unique to Bryan’s vision.
His works are intimate in scale. We spoke about this on my visit. I learned that the length of the reach of his arm defines the scale that he can work. With as many as 200 layers he has come to a pragmatic conclusion on that choice.
As we spoke at his studio I began to reflect on art/history on a human scale: Listening to Bryan’s stories, his history with Sam Francis, some of the people he met through Sam, (hanging out and barbequing with the sculptor JB Blunk at his magical home on Mt. Tamalpais in West Marin), of friends intimately linked through time, the people one meets and how they influence you and whom they may connect you to, and of the unexpected cause and effect of children playing together in a yard laying the foundation for a life’s work.