Painting like a Sculptor: In the Studio with Peter Opheim

For all the implied detail that jpegs provide, there's nothing quite like seeing a painting in person. I was certain that when I set out to visit German-born artist Peter Opheim at his Chinatown studio in New York, I had a pretty good handle on what I would expect to see. But appearances can be deceiving, and a closer inspection of the surface of his works was not unlike being whispered a very important secret, with all the weight of the work carried with it. The surface quality of these paintings is both remarkable and remarkably important to the understanding of his work.

When viewed in their entirety, or seen from a distance, Opheim's large-scale paintings reveal very little about their surfaces. Based on individual sculptural maquettes made of clay (which I had the rare pleasure of seeing in the studio), the artist's colorful subjects are rendered with a very small brush, effectively making his painted works seem more like hand-made objects. Each tiny brushstroke appears as if Opheim has instead sculpted the paint with his fingers, casting a very sculptural glow over his oil paintings.

For Opheim, the result is less about an accurate representation of his clay maquettes and more about the careful abstraction of his compositions. For decades, the artist worked almost exclusively with abstracted imagery, and his recent work deeply recalls that spirit. I caught up with Opheim as he was preparing for a solo show at VOLTA NY with Steven Zevitas Gallery. More after the jump!

—Evan J. Garza, Editor-at-large

A solo show of Peter Opheim's work will be featured this week at VOLTA NY by Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston. Images courtesy the artist and Steven Zevitas Gallery.

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