In Significance: In Significance: Photographs by Colton Allen and Paintings by Julian Bell – May 18-19, 2019

Photograph by Colton Allen 

We were delighted to show work by these two local artists.  Julian creates oil paintings and Colton creates photographs. This show features the landscape as subject, although neither artist particularly focuses on landscape, or even finds that the subject matter itself is the most vital part of the artwork.  Colton says, “I suppose I do end up shooting lots of landscape images, but I never really think of myself as a landscape photographer. I try to find whatever is interesting to me wherever I happen to be.”  When describing his choice of subject, Julian often chooses landscape because they are, “generally popular with audiences, but are also a portal into a different world.”  

The title of the show, In Significance was taken from Colton Allen’s guiding philosophy for making work: “I think the singular idea behind this body of work is that there is beauty and significance everywhere, we just have to try to see things from a different perspective. We get used to our everyday surroundings, and we so often don’t notice the amazing world all around us.”  Julian’s work depicts everyday surroundings from a different perspective as well.  The constraints and buttery texture of the paint, along with his early love of illustrations from Tintin books and the influence of artists, such as Van Gogh and Stuart Davis, all “jumble together” and result in the utterly unique voice Julian has in showing everyday images.  He clearly loves to play with color: “I aim for a line that Van Gogh wrote to the effect that if you key up all your colors for maximum effect, they kind of balance themselves out.” Julian’s work always strikes me as what the world would look like if we put on Warner’s Brothers glasses and took a nice walk.  

Colton bought his first camera in 2000, but got serious about making photographs in 2007. Like many photographers, he is a huge equipment nerd.  He loves older film cameras, but says he keeps the photography separate from the gear collecting.  He says, “ I might buy a camera purely because I like it, not because I think it will make me a better photographer.” He uses film because he likes the look and process, but is no purist.  “If I have any rules, it’s that I always try to do the absolute minimum of editing to make the image right, and I never digitally add or remove elements to or from an image. Usually my editing will be limited to very slight cropping, then basic adjustment of levels and tone curve.”  

Colton has ALS and because of his health condition, he constantly has to adapt the way he physically takes photos.  Overtime taking vertically oriented photos became physically too difficult, so he began making exclusively horizontal ones.  Now, the way he sees photos has adapted to suit his physical limitations.  

oil painting by Julian Bell

Julian Bell also started painting in the year 2000, but has been drawing since he could hold a pencil.  He starts his paintings en plein air(meaning outdoors, on site), and finishes them in the studio where he can take plenty of time to adjust the patterns and colors. Sometimes all he makes outdoors is a drawing, and that’s all he needs to build a painting from in the studio. Julian makes time to paint, despite having young children, being a full time physician (often working the night shift!) and serving as the Ashland Parks Commissioner. When asked why he makes time for art, Julian says it’s essential for him: “It’s a bit of transcendence in a world that sometimes seems very venal.”