Being surrounded all day by notable fine art neither intimidates nor saturates Will South. He leaves Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) where he is surrounded by notable works of art daily, yet when he wraps up, he goes home to paint in his studio for several more hours an evening. “I love painting and look forward to getting back to it each day, just as I enjoy studying and interpreting it, talking and writing about it in my job as curator at Columbia Museum of Art. I don’t think I can remember a time when I wasn’t making art; certainly I have never stopped trying to paint and draw, but I find I am at a time and place in my life now where I can fully enjoy both being an artist and being a curator. I learn more about creating art from art history than I have ever learned in an art class. ” South says: “There is no substitution for work,” meaning his tenacity at his easel ultimately pays off, and the result of this pleasurable labor is currently on view at Gallery West, 118 State Street (former Café Strudel location.) This show, in which South’s recent work shares exhibition space with the ceramics of Douglas Gray, Francis Marion University art professor, is up through November 16: Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This show marks the first opportunity for Metropolitan Columbia to see evidence of South as an artist. All of South’s pieces for this show have been painted or drawn in the months since he arrived in Columbia to assume curatorial duties at CMA so have not been exhibited previously. “Simplicity is a virtue,” says South, and that philosophy is notable in the works in this show. To him, “what is enduring about an image is the sensuality of color, the refinement of shape, the human intelligence contained in a line. I challenge myself to edit out all but the essential and, of course, the problem is in knowing what the essential is.”
Spare and lean are words that surface when looking at these pieces, both the oils and the charcoal drawings. One Ahh! moment elicits from the ethereal Back in Blue, oil wash over charcoal. A playful note, revealing something of the artist’s drawing side, is the label for Self Portrait as Pencils, an oil on canvas. Wake Up in New York, an oil and charcoal on linen, may conjure up a bit of déjà vu for this artist who honed some of his skills at the Art Students League in New York. He had come to the city for PhD studies at the Graduate Center of the City University in New York following a Master’s degree in art history and an undergraduate studio art degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
In co-exhibiting with Doug Gray, South and his work provide textural contrast. Gray’s interest in color and surface are evidence in the pieces selected for this show. -- Rachel Haynie
For more information, call 803-207-9265.