Simard Bilodeau Contemporary is honored to present The Light Behind The Trees, a collection of works from artists Tyler Keeton Robbins and Michael Nauert.  Rooted in exploration and illustration of their natural surroundings, both Robbins and Nauert are masters of abstraction--articulating obtuse gestures of paint with familiar shapes and figures, resulting in immersive, fantastical compositions that seem to be perpetually in motion. Though both artists' practices are very different, their goals share the same enduring objective: to sincerely depict what organically surrounds them as a means of enlightenment and interrogation.

Ultimately, Robbins and Nauert engage viewers from opposing sides of a scope: Robbins taking macro and Nauert with micro. In Nauert’s work, our attention is drawn to a focal point, be it a rendering of a familiar yet unrecognizable organic life-form or a swirling passageway within a dense forest. Conversely, Robbins places us in the forest, surrounded, overwhelmed even, by the intersecting choreography of flora and fauna following their own designated paths. The urgency and movement in both settings is undeniable as these two artists bend light, form, and even depth of color to convey swaying leaves and wriggling insects. These illustrated works transport the viewer to landscapes that exist somewhere between having a dream and recalling it the next morning. The wondrous is interwoven with visual “anchors” for the viewer, sparing them from vertigo, while fully enveloping them in the scenes at hand.

Both Robbins and Nauert use their art as a means of exposing the “unseen” or “unfamiliar” while they themselves act as obfuscator and exhibitor. Again, they take contrary approaches to emulate lucidity and sincerity. “Slipping in and out of the familiar through abstract mark making, I draw parallels between nature and human nature within my paintings.” Nauert describes, “My shapes coalesce into landscape and figure, eventually dissipating into abstract impressions. This limbo state creates a vortex for multiple forms, ideas, and shared memory.” To do so he alternates between sections of thick, opaque paint strokes and surrounding areas of ink and pastel, leaving no section of the original canvas exposed. Together, the varied mediums become a new language in displaying fore, middle and background. The “flatter” components serve as foundation to the thicker cross sections of paint, no matter what quadrant of the composition they are located in.
Where Nauert works to convey a sense of depth and light by varying the literal surface levels of his works, Robbins works in the reverse: depending on translucence itself to allude to depth. As he layers watercolor on top of itself, intersections of strokes build up across the canvas. As each layer coalesces with the next until the entire arrangement stretches backward, like a series of coulisses on a theater stage. These compositions necessitate a specific and inherent aesthetic rigor, requiring the artist to move quickly and definitely as he dictates the fluid directions of the ink across the canvas. “The most honest and exciting ideas lay beneath critical thought…” Robbins has written, “Creating with urgency allows ideas to establish before they’re corrupted by reason.” With both artists’ work, reason and stagnation are absent. In their place, resides pieces that invoke a sensory response, transforming the experience of viewing into one of simulated interaction and self-determined temporality.

The Light Behind the Trees provides a passageway taken off the beaten path towards a landscape that exists without constraint of conventions. The works of Tyler Keeton Robbins and Michael Nauert are rooted in the fantastic yet common. In each piece, we know where we stand and recognize features around us, without being able to fully grasp the movement and magic that is taking place before us. As if given a key to a secret garden, each piece unlocks a sensory connection that exists somewhere between a long forgotten memory and a completely new perspective on something we might overlook or underestimate--the natural world around us.

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