There are no people in John Diehl’s expressionistic landscapes. But they are full of human emotion.
There are no people in John Diehl’s expressionistic landscapes.But they are full of human emotion.
“I try to use landscapes as a means to express feeling as opposed to capturing a scene. I’m trying to portray joy, peace, happiness and solitude,” said Diehl, whose show “Blurscapes and Knifescapes” is on exhibit at the West Bridgewater Pubic Library through Feb. 28.
Diehl, who grew up in West Bridgewater and lives in Bridgewater, was trained as a classical pianist before he ever picked up a paintbrush or palette knife.
That love of music permeates his art. Like an instrumental piece, it is at once precise and moody, conveying its meaning without being too literal.
“Just as a composer writes a piece of music that requires no words, it is the same for me with my colors and brush strokes,” Diehl said.
For someone who’s been painting such a short time, Diehl, 26, has an impressive command of his technique. His paintings are fluid and dynamic, never stiff and labored-looking.
Diehl said he paints with his hands instead of his head, trusting his instincts to guide him.“I don’t overthink it,” he said.
Painting is a joy because he doesn’t self-censor, worried he’ll take a misstep.“I’m not afraid to destroy a canvas,” Diehl said.
If it can be said of someone so young, Diehl came to visual art “late in the game.”
He wasn’t one of those kids who worked through his feelings with a pencil and sketch pad.
Instead, he wandered into an introductory drawing class as a sophomore at Bridgewater State College thinking it would be an easy credit and surprised himself.
He had a knack for rendering objects and took great pleasure in it. With the encouragement of teachers, family and friends, he decided to make a career as a professional artist, for the first few years selling commissioned portraits and other works.
But as much as he enjoyed drawing, he felt limited by the medium. Diehl said he loves the freedom of painting, which, remarkably, he just took up last year.
Diehl, who was born in Brockton, moved to West Bridgewater when he was 8. He graduated in 2000 from West Bridgewater Middle Senior High School, where he served as his senior class president. Diehl was also a member of Boy Scouts Troop 25, where he achieved the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
He has studied art at Bridgewater State College, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and the University of Florence in Italy.
His show at the library takes its name from the two techniques he employs.
“Blurscapes” are soft, muted paintings, created with brushes, blurry landscapes that make the viewer feel not so much in need of glasses as transported to a dream where everything is misty paint or hazy sunshine depending on the color palette. They explore the intersection of sky and trees and earth.
“Knifescapes,” in contrast, are conglomerations of big, angular strokes of oil paint applied with a palette knife in lush slabs of vibrant blues and yellows, suggesting the dance of wind through a field of flowers or light across a lake. The strokes of paint, all angles and texture, are distinct but come together harmoniously, like the notes in a piece of music.
Diehl said he loves to paint the sky. It takes him back to the big skies of his childhood, growing up in West Bridgewater. His house was on one of the highest elevations in town and surrounded by hay fields, without a lot of trees.
His artistic heroes are Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, “anyone who paints really freely,” Diehl said.
Diehl’s landscapes, particularly the blurscapes, seem to be meditations on a theme, like Monet’s studies of haystacks or the Rouen Cathedral.
As beautiful and rich a source of inspiration as landscapes have been for Diehl, one wonders if this emerging artist will extend his range to other subjects.
John Diehl may have just begun to explore the places he could take us.