Monday, February 6, 2012

“A Flood of Ideas: Large Scale Paintings by G Oktober”

G Oktober. Naked Twister. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas, 48"x60". Photograph courtesy of the artist.
Let me introduce you to the paintings of G Oktober: huge, colorful, richly textured and playfully abstracted paintings. I got my first impression of his work the night of the opening for “33November” show at the Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves, MO in mid-November 2011. Three pieces of my art, along with work by 32 other artists (hence the name) adorned a small but lovely gallery space. A massive 4'x5' foot painting that dominated the center wall space caught my eye. Blue, yellow and red primary colors floated across the huge canvas in large circles, rich textures and thick slathery paint drew me in closer before I knew anything about the subject. I stepped back. The label bore the title Naked Twister by artist G. Oktober. Instantly figures began to appear and dance to me, at once advancing where they had stood back. Twister with its “right foot blue” and “left hand red” draws you into a sensually playful game, one of the first in a series of fun and playfully erotic paintings by this super prolific artist emerging on the St. Louis scene. Two male “stick figures” (as G refers to them) tumble across the right and left edge, playfully erect in warm cream colors and gold outlines. A centered female figure strikes a pose with wiggly wavy hair flying. The drizzly paint border frames it all in, adding illusion of motion and excitement to the game, showing the gesture of  G Oktober’s hand as he swirled the paint on horizontally.

Well I just had to find out more about this artist, and about his work. Turns out it all started with an old tube of black paint and another of white. Really old, like 20 years. He opened up those tubes, took out a brush and that was all it took to renew G Oktober’s interest in painting. And not just a little interest, a passion which, just five years after he found that tube of black and white paint took him through several different series and over 100 large-scale paintings, each one at least three feet in the smallest dimension.

Growing up in a large family, G Oktober was first exposed to the arts by his parents, both artists and avid antique collectors. Their home, as G describes, is “like a museum,” filled with interesting and beautiful items. As a child he loved to draw, sculpt and make pottery, winning awards and obtaining commissions at a very young age. His beautifully carved wood shore birds, carried by a local gallery, are a talent first taught to him by his father. His hands were always busy, creating and making art through his adult life.

Until recently, though, this passion has taken a backseat to his own successful construction business, as one might expect. But in 2007 something changed…the creativity began to yield more and more ideas and more and more new large scale paintings. A trip to Italy and several other excursions both in and out of the country have been influential to his art. Especially Italy…he is a self taught artist with a drive like no other “the ideas keep flowing, it is difficult to find time to paint them all” G. related to me in a recent conversation.

G Oktober. Man of Peace. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas, 24"x48". Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Not shy to dive right into themes he’s passionate about, G’s enthusiasm for color, design and texture have been showcased in his Jellyfish Series. Rich in cool blues, periwinkle and cool transparency, Man of Peace, a 2'x4' painting takes you into a surreal landscape, a vast empty sea of color and horizontal brushstrokes with a horizon line about a third of the way down. A lone jellyfish, transparent and fading into the sky floats on the horizon, its tentacles playfully and dreamily dancing into the depths of the sea. In this series color and transparency is one of the only spatial indicators, taking the viewer into a silent watery world.

G Oktober. Half Spirit: Lakota. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas, 20"x24". Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Oktober’s Warriors series emulates the beauty and spontaneity of folk art; G even painted several of the large canvases live in front of an outdoor audience. The powerful content and history of his subjects shows in the faces of the warriors and the spontaneously scrawled names that commemorate the portraits of his historical Native American subjects. Rich in texture like all of his paintings, this series offers much to engage the eye.

G Oktober. Satyr's Pursuit. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

His new Naughty Stick Figures series has grown from one to over twenty since showing Naked Twister in November. Allegory and mythology pervade the new paintings; each one teases and invites viewers into the scene as voyeur or participant. Satyr’s Pursuit is  a playful and erotic chase scene. Outlined in dazzling gold, the figures exemplify G’s own characteristic shorthanded stylization against a textured, visually active ground of monochromatic blue gray swirls and splatters. The mood of the painting is energetic and hot. Gestures of the artist float in swirled paint drips surrounded by a deep red wavy vignette. Casting aside spatial perspective and scale, patterns emerge and dimensional alternates with flatness in paintings such as The Dance.

G Oktober. The Dance. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas, 48"x60". Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Five Figures frolic across a vibrant warm palette of red gold ground, engaged in a dance of fertility, and sexual pleasures, male and female figures abbreviated into symbol-like characters. In fact the entire painting almost reads as a sort of abstract script until the figures reveal themselves. He explores and revisits themes like Adam and Eve, and has his own homage to the mythological birth of Venus in Nascita di Venere.

G Oktober. Nascita di Venere. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas, 60"x72". Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Miro, Matisse, Haring, Picasso, Pollack, and Chagall are  artists that come to mind when I see his work, although G Oktober is not directly influenced by any one in particular. He tries to paint what is in his head. He feels free on the larger canvases, and paints hundreds of paintings over the course of a year, in spite of their ambitious size.

G Oktober. Adam and Eve. Acrylic, Mixed Media on Canvas, 48"x60". Photograph courtesy of the artist.

So where does he see himself going from here? New ideas “come in a flood” for G, who says he is motivated by an “inexplicable drive somewhere inside… constantly trying to get out.” And there are many more ideas awaiting the canvas…

G Oktober’s work was awarded Best of Show at the “33 November” exhibit at MySLART Gallery in 2011. He has sold his paintings nationally and is represented locally by Art Trends Gallery in Chesterfield MO. His work will be on display at Koken Art Factory in “Naughti Gras 5: The Saint Louis Erotic Art Show,” The Koken Art Factory, St. Louis, MO (February 10-11, 2012). See more of his artwork online at Fine Art America.
Patty Sheppard is a member of Art Saint Louis and is a clay artist who currently teaches design and drawing classes at St. Louis Community College Meramec. Her works were recently exhibited in "Art Outside" at Schlafly Bottleworks, Maplewood, MO, and "33November" and "33December" at MySLART Gallery, Webster Groves, MO.

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