“Seems to me the true artist must perforce go from time to time to the elemental big forms-Sky, Sea, Mountain, Plain,-and these things pertaining thereto, to sort of re-true himself up, to recharge the battery. For these big forms have everything. But to express these, you have to love these, to be part of these in sympathy. One doesn’t get very far without this love…” -John Marin
A beautiful collection of drawings in a recent show of John David Wissler at the Lancaster Galleries in Lancaster, PA, brings to my mind the work and words of John Marin. Wissler apparently shares John Marin’s love for the “elemental big forms” of nature. Working mainly with water-based media and brush Wissler’s drawings are more than just landscapes. They are urgent translations of emotion experienced in the act of seeing, and being, in nature. His brush moves with the excitement and energy of an electrical storm, acutely aware that in another instant the whole scene will shift and disappear. An ancient Chinese text on landscape painting recommends that the artist meditate for hours before picking up the brush so that he or she becomes an instrument of nature’s forces. Wissler seems to achieve such a state in these works, channeling the force of nature directly onto the page. The artist has this to say about his drawings:
“My passion has always been the landscape. I feel a sense of history when painting… the painters I admire and study, Corot, Constable, Turner, Inness, Bonard, Resika…the history of the land itself and my own familiar connection to it. Painting comes through the study of nature…transformed, not merely copied. Seeing the immediacy of the place…what strikes me first. The way trees react to fields, colour to colour, shape to shape…pushing and pulling the plastic nature of the picture plane, creating believable space.
I find the challenge of using what I have observed, taking it to my studio, and creating a new painting invigorating. Drawing upon the memory of place and experience…using the language I have learned from nature, trying to keep the painting fresh…space, clarity, surprise…that’s painting!” (Courtesy of Lancaster Galleries)