William Monk at Kohn Gallery

The siren song of California is growing stronger and stronger, its unique state of mind and topography luring creative minds far and wide to the wild, wild west…

British painter William Monk is the latest to have fallen under the spell of California, as is evidenced by his latest body of work, The Cloud is Growing in the Trees, currently on view at Kohn Gallery in Hollywood. In a serendipitous twist of events, Monk had already begun the slow process of creating this body of oil paintings inspired by California before Michael Kohn hand-picked Monk to add to his impressive roster of artists. Thus, the perfect artistic storm brewed, bringing Monk and his first American solo show straight to us in the City of Angels.

And, indeed, what a treat he has delivered in this ode to California, riffing on the sunsets and landscapes that only exist in dreams for most, but are familiar to Californians. There is a certain magic inherent in the works of The Cloud is Growing in the Trees; the landscapes and skyscapes depicted seem familiar yet fearlessly altered, as if viewed through a psychedelic lens.

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I couldn’t rip myself away from Further!, which invites the viewer to go on a road trip with Monk through a blue pointillist forest that somehow exists in a desert, into a neon sunset, beneath a vortex of clouds that looks to me more like a ploom of smoke. Oh, how badly I want to take this “trip” with Monk…

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The title piece in the exhibition, The Cloud is Growing in the Trees, is so tactile, it took all my self-control not to touch it. Monk’s signature thickly layered brushstroke is shortened, almost dribbled, over the bottom half of the canvas in such a way that I initially thought gravel was adhered to the canvas. A brilliant silver sky gives way to an idyllic sunset, streaking yellows, oranges, pinks, and blues across the metallic sky. Monk likes to leave bits of canvas untouched, cleverly utilizing the blank canvas as negative space. Ah, the mark of a true genius… one needs not paint over every inch of the canvas to complete a thorough thought.

Yet, Monk’s fascination with the American West Coast is not entirely grounded in landscapes. In his hometown of London, it’s not quite so easy to get lost in the stars – but in Assembly, a large six-panel work depicting the cosmos, it’s impossible not to. Thick chunks of oil paint appear to be brightly burning supernovas in a constellation of swirling, splattered, and dripped paint…

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Despite the immensity of this work and the chaos of his application of medium, a sense of serenity washed over me as I stood viewing Assembly, a sensation I believe we all seek every day; an emotional diamond in the rough. This, my friends, is the power of Art, to make the intangible tangible. 

The Cloud is Growing in the Trees is on view at Kohn Gallery through the end of the week, so hurry over to catch Monk’s works before it’s too late! The exhibition closes June 27, 2015. 

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