Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Brilliant Painter - Ken Buhler

Many years ago, more than I'd like to acknowledge, I was a printmaker. I'd attended The Cranbrook Academy of Art for my MFA. And following that I was invited to The MacDowell Colony. MacDowell, which is Heaven on Earth for artists, is situated in Peterborough, NH., on beautiful rolling hills, and woods near Mt. Monadnock. It is in this glorious setting, that artists of all types, are allowed to create their works without interuption. I was there with some fascinating and talented people including composers W. Burle Marx, Gail Kubick, and Thomas Oboe Lee, writers Madison Smart Bell and Orville Schell, and visual artists Virginia Buchan, Susan Roth and Ken Buhler. My studio, next to a Hopper-esque hill with a Red Barn, connected with Ken's. And when I heard his Pat Metheny playing , I'd counter with some Milton Nascimento. He might play some Aretha... I'd put on some Jarrett. In short we became great friends. And while we'd leave each other alone to create our Art, there were times when I would go check out Ken's work and maybe even watch him create. This was always very interesting as Ken might seemingly have a piece completed only to demolish it with a few strokes of his brush. How many great images could this guy come up with? Apparently quite a few. As I mentioned earlier, it has been many years. Ken has been painting, drawing, creating monotypes, exhibiting and teaching throughout. His works are terribly special. Ken is a great painter and friend, and so it is my privilege to be highlighting him here. You may want to start off with the video piece which might give you an idea as to how he creates. Then move on to the drawings, monotypes, and paintings.

Here's what Ken had to say about a few of the recent drawings:

"The series is called "Notes From The Edge Of The World" and is inspired by the Ireland trip. Below is a statement I wrote about this work, particularly the last paragraph. The title of the series was inspired by the view from our cottage. I told someone there that it felt like the edge of the world, and they said actually that if you drew a line straight north from where I was standing, I wouldn't hit land until the Arctic.

The statement:

My relationship to abstraction has been changing in recent years. Sources in the physical world have become more prominent as catalysts in my process of making a painting or drawing. The first manifestation of this in my work came after a trip to Tulum, Mexico.

At this time, I became fascinated with the meandering and convoluting lines of the ossified brain coral that lay washed up on the beach. Months later, without conscious intention, these forms found their way into my painting through the rhythmical movement of my hand, almost as a mimic to the linear convolutions of the coral (that I was seeing everyday now at home as I had transported a great deal of it from Mexico).

This connection to the coral was sustained and evolved through a series of paintings and drawings aptly called the Coral Series (2005 - 2007).

Paying attention to the natural world is not a new thing to me in my work, but with the Coral Series, there came a departure from the way this interest had manifested itself in the past. “Process” became a direct guide (as opposed to a discreet image) and this new focus seems to have revitalized my studio practice.

This impulse continued to evolve during the past summer as I spent a month on an artist’s residency in Ireland. There I worked along the northwest coast, in daily contact with the fascinating tide pools, and the marine life and fossils that are a part of that environment. Soon this experience was filtering into my work.

Since I couldn’t really bring it home with me, I photographed and filmed extensively the layered images created by waves, creatures, and vegetation flowing over a substrate of amazing geological forms.

Though I have not resolved this new body of work enough to include it in my application, the nature of this new influence is turning out, as with the Coral Series, to be more experiential and less imagistic in its import.

In addition to the direct visual stimulation of the environment I encountered in Ireland, I was energized by the tangible presence of the ancient history that literally simmers right at the surface there - in the form of Neolithic tombs, ruins of castles and abbeys, abundant fossils, and a vivid geological history.

I felt a strong sense of a time on earth when all was not charted and documented - when the “terra incognita” of the world left mapmakers and scientists with only the option of imaginative and artistic speculation.

I guess there is romance in the mystery of not knowing what lies over the horizon, and it resonates with the sense I have of my own role as an artist –

a feeling that I am a chronicler of something important that has yet to be revealed –

a way of seeing, thinking, or feeling that I hope others need to know to help them understand better.

Though I am not sure I could say what this is, I can only hope that looking at my pictures will allow it to come to light."

Ken will be exhibiting his works this Fall at
Lesley Heller Gallery N.Y.C.

Find out more about the artist at:


  1. hi David, were a printmaker..that's interesting!
    I bet you might miss those happy creative days.
    Do you still meet Ken?
    This Irish series is pleasantly and unexpectedly colorful. Actually, now that i think of it, it's true that Ireland is particularly colorful. I live there for one year and naturally i'd be tempted to visualize it in shades of bluish grey and vivid greens but it has more to it.
    Hope everything's bright on your coast David !

  2. Hello Lala,

    I used to do etchings combined with linoleum block prints. Large, abstract pieces with a thick impasto. They were in galleries all over the country and are in 3 museums here in the States. These days I'll do photos when I travel primarily. I wish I could spend more time with all of that and at the piano. In the meantime I can present beauty when I have the chance and Ken gave me a great opportunity. His words and images are just very special. I hope you watched the video. The colors... very much in keeping with the tides etc... he was observing. Not necessarily a traditional Irish look. So glad you dropped by. The weather here is really Spring like for a change. Windy, sunny then grey.... I love it, that it's not already Summer.

    Ciao Bella,


  3. Hi David! Thank you for the introduction to this wonderful artist. I thoroughly enjoyed the video clip of the progression of the piece mixed with the natural shots. I was happy to see the work wasn't demolished with a few brush strokes at the end! His watercolors are absolutely amazing.

    I would love to see some of your prints. Please post some soon! Glad to be back. I missed you, too. ~x~

  4. Thank you for the lovely comment Willow. I hoped you would like Ken's work. I just think he's so special. I was glad to show him off.

    As to my works... I don't have many shots of them BUT perhaps I'll see what I can do about that. In recent years I've taken pictures instead of making prints. I 've included my photos in my blog and will continue to.

    All the best,


  5. Hey David!
    Circuitous wanderings online looking at art and lo your name miraculously appears. Fellow Cranbrookian solvent sniffer of the Murakishi tribe, Ric Rolston here ( Your talent for art, music, and conversation fondly recalled. I will further mine your blog for what you're up to and into. Definitely want to view your recent and current work.