Stepping away from your artwork is by all means a healthy practice. Likewise, getting entirely outside of that artistic comfort zone can unleash an even greater wealth of perspective-changing insight. And occasionally that leads you back to a better-informed and more refined starting point.
In Blip, Russell departs from a recent series of formulaic DayGlo-infused renderings of the cosmos, which preoccupied his work for the last year, and revives an ongoing aim to draw closer the realms of physics and fine art. The show features 14 untitled panels that visualize Russell’s meditations on nuclear transmutation — that ever-present, yet unseen changing of one chemical element or isotope into another.
Works range from energetic 24-by-36-inch studies to a series of meandering 80-inch-wide abstract landscapes and towering vertical paintings. Russell has swapped those starry black backgrounds for lush, warm reds and oranges backlit by aquas, sky blues and mossy greens. Each panel has no less than 25 layers of paint. Some top 40 and 50. The effect creates a frantic buzz in some, while others have orchestral layerings that form three-tier spacial divides that help draw viewers into the works.
Russell’s melding of scientific undertones with fine art descends from his personal interest in the two seemingly separate fields. “I love the reality that everything is made out of energy,” he says. “It gives everybody insight to the mechanics of the universe.” So these paintings are largely personal — think of them as his way of interpreting and processing such information.
Such attention is most apparent in his alternating use of repeating geometric and linear forms. Even the most amorphous shapes begin to take on bulging, cellular qualities. And, while abstraction controls each panel, some do have imaginative humanoid outlines and faint, figurative forms buried within. “It takes a creative, unique process to get to such conclusions,” Russell says. “Science and art should always be hand in hand.”