Francis Livingston

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Francis Livingston: Symphony in Color

August 3, 2018 - Kelly Skeen

Idaho artist Francis Livingston reveals a new body of expressionist western landscapes for his solo exhibition Symphony in Color, on display at the gallery from August 17ththrough the 24th. Livingston’s show title was inspired by one of his artistic influences and Post-Impressionist James McNeill Whistler, who regularly used words like “symphony” and “harmony” in his painting titles. These words encompass Livingston’s motivation as a painter as he seeks to portray figures that seamlessly blend with western landscapes. Native American women or cowboys on horseback become natural elements of their environment, just like leaves floating against trees or mountains rising from the horizon. While Livingston enjoys painting the elaborate and colorful dress of his typically Native figures, their characterization is not the focus of his compositions; the purpose of these figures is instead to bring our attention back to their natural environment.

The figure is really there to bring scale and context to the landscape,” explains Livingston, whose intentional placement of a person or animal brings its surroundings into perspective. In Golden Trail, for example, two blurred Native Americans on horseback move through the middle ground of the painting while a macro view of a Chamisa bush dominates the foreground. The Chamisa’s lively brushwork and moonlit palette absorbs our attention as if we are crouched closely behind it, unnoticed as the horsemen glide past us. The vibrancy and loose detail in Golden Trailis present throughout Livingston’s exhibition paintings. In previous work, Livingston typically finished pieces with a wash or glaze in certain hues such as yellow or violet, bringing a monochromatic or even antiqued feel to the final piece. For his current paintings however, Livingston offers deeper values and enriched contrast through very subtle or absent glazing. This results in dramatic and bright landscapes; even Livingston’s winter scenes feel as if they are sunlit, with neon trees popping against reflective snow banks and saturated skies. Even with this emboldened vision, Livingston maintains harmony throughout each composition with symphonized colors and rhythmic forms.  

While Livingston’s subject matter pays homage to classic western landscape painters such as the early Taos Founders, his handling of paint leans strongly towards Tonalists or Abstract Expressionists. These distinct art movements each played their part in shaping Livingston’s aesthetic, but abstraction is the true motivator for this expressive artist. “I love abstract work because that’s how I think,” says Livingston. “It’s like when I’m painting leaves; in terms of shapes, to me it’s an abstract painting.”

Livingston’s paintings break from traditional realism with bold palettes and exposed brushwork. Primitive forms, dancing lines and unexpected colors dramatize the western landscape for an exciting and unique viewer experience that attracts the contemporary western art collector. Please join us for the opening reception for Symphony in Coloron Friday evening, August 17thfrom 5-7pm

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