'The Optimistic Gene': Prop stylist Bryson Gill, by Kimberly Chun

Kimberly Chun, SFGATE, December 1, 2011

Bryson Gill loves his day job working as a prop stylist for advertising clients, but when it comes to painting, the California College of the Arts graduate prefers a complete break from the familiar.


"All my work up to two years ago was still lifes," says the San Francisco artist, 28, at work on paintings for his latest Triple Base exhibition, "The Optimistic Gene." "Rooms or stage sets and a lot of objects with a lot of references - I could look at it and say, 'That parrot comes from that Brueghel painting, and that's a Nike shoe.' Everything had a reference. 



Gill began making works that shared the same starting point: Instead of doing preliminary sketches, he assembled preliminary paper collages while, as he puts it, "sitting around, sometimes deliberately and sometimes pretty brainlessly. They're careless - I'm not attached to them." If a collage struck a chord, he'd snap photos and ended up creating a sizable image bank from which to work. 



The arbitrary, Rorschach-like abstract forms - resembling letters, leaves, branches or maybe even an explosion - form the basis of Gill's trompe l'oeil paintings. He'll paint a still life of sorts of the paper collages, complete with shadows, over a background that looks spray-painted but is actually applied with a brush. The textured linen peeks through. 


It's a departure from the works in Gill's last show at Triple Base in 2009: paintings of objects scattered on lawns that today seem to tie directly to the unfolding Great Recession, the artist says. This show, in contrast, feels more optimistic. 


"For a little while, I was making this joke about my neighbor's dog chasing its own tail all the time. I feel like that's what making art is: You see something in the periphery and keep chasing it, and it's not there," Gill says. "There are serious things going on, and there's a place for art there, but art doesn't really affect those things, especially painting. I feel like I'm embracing that with this show, keeping the content insular and about itself. 

"It's about art embracing itself. Art that's optimistic about making art in its own terms." 

Reception 7 p.m. Fri. Through Jan. 1. 4-8 p.m. Thurs.-Fri., noon-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Triple Base Gallery, 3041 24th St., S.F. (415) 643-3943. www.basebasebase.com.