- Megan Toy
Locale Mélange: Viktor Butko | Paton Miller | Darius Yektai
The Grenning Gallery is pleased to announce our new exhibition, Locale Mélange: Viktor Butko, Paton Miller, and Darius Yektai, which will hang from Saturday, March 5th, through Sunday, April 3rd. The gallery is open 5 days a week, Thursday – Monday (By appointment only, on Tuesday and Wednesday).
We invite the public to join us in the gallery at 26 Main Street, for an opening reception with all three exhibiting artists, on Saturday, March 5th, from 5pm to 7pm.
Locale Mélange is an exhibition of three artists who all paint frequently on the East End of Long Island. Each of these artists have their own individual styles because of their divergent inspirations, and motivators. What exactly is Locale Mélange? Locale because a setting is important – whether that place is part of the artist’s heritage, where they’ve traveled to in the past, or where they exist presently, place holds a deep significance upon an artist’s identity. Mélange, means “a mixture,” or “a medley,” originating from the French verb “mêler” which means, “to mix”. As a group show, this word made obvious sense. However, upon further examination, this particular word resonates deeper. In geology, Mélange is a large mappable body of rock characterized by a lack of continuous bedding, contained in a fine-grained, deformed matrix. This geological definition correlates to some of the processes these artists wield. For instance, Yektai's work can cover multiple canvases, conjoined by paint or resin. Yektai layers paint onto canvas, and resin onto paint - creating a strata of materials, hardened - like minerals.
In 1965, Frank Herbert waged “Mélange” as the name for his fictional psychedelic drug, the “spice mélange”, which was central to the Dune series of novels. This drug was ingested to lengthen one’s lifespan, improve health, and heighten awareness. This idea of a heightened awareness is key to creating art. An artist must be aware, and confident enough to express themselves boldly, manifesting into something tangible, and presenting this visual expression to an audience. Paton Miller's work looks as though they were created over the course of millennia. He places his subjects in landscapes that are semi-surreal; perhaps even on another planet.
Darius Yektai (b.1973, Southampton, NY) grew up living between New York City and the East End of Long Island, and since his birth, he’s been very much rooted within the community of Contemporary Art. As the son of a well-established Abstract Expressionist, Yektai is what we call a Classical Expressionist. His lusciously physical and bold use of colorful paints, combined with his constant study of great art from art-history, informs every painting. Yektai studied Art History at the American University in Paris, further enhancing his knowledge in the vast world of art. Although Yektai has traveled the world for knowledge, for family, & for pleasure, it is his East End roots that inform the sentiment of his artworks in the most recent years. In 2021, Yektai exhibited a series of Waterlily paintings at The Grenning Gallery. Dually inspired by Claude Monet’s famed organic subject, and even more so by the local flora surrounding the Long Pond Greenbelt, which envelops Yektai’s studio. This series is an iconic mix of values both local and international, modern and abstract, refined and emotional.
The 2021 Solo Waterlily exhibition was a near sell-out show. This encouraged Yektai to continue the series, in experimental configurations and colors. This year, we have the honor to share some of these newly devised constructions like “Black and White Lily”.
Yektai paints his affinity for the East End’s landscape with “Daniel’s Lane”, a new canvas created both en plein air, and back in the artist’s studio. Yektai practices classical painting techniques, by painting out-of-doors at a local farm, and embraces the impressionist methodology, by dotting the sky with pointillist markings. Raw canvas remains untouched and encased under a glassy resin plane – offering reverence to untouched land – unsullied and preserved.
Finally, Yektai looks even closer at the beauty in nature, by zooming-in on elements of the ecological landcape in “Flower Diptych”. Two canvases examine the forms of red flowers on green stems. On the right, a single red blossom reaches tall against an unembellished white background. On the left, a swarm of color cloaks the canvas in thickly-laid batches. Red blossoms rest both atop, and seep into the blanket of paint – made just barely discernable by thin green strokes that bend and reach toward the right, clean, white canvas.
Paton Miller (b. 1953, Seattle, WA) is one of the most featured and collected Hamptons artists. Although, years ago, the Grenning Gallery worked with Miller briefly, we are pivoting back to take a deeper look at his work.
Mysteriously, Miller’s paintings, evoke ideas and feelings that are simultaneously ancient and yet contemporary. It’s as though Miller has a time machine, where he transports the viewer to ancient civilizations, then carriages them through time and space, in hyper speed; unveiling innovative discoveries in technology, geography, and even anthropology. As the son of a pilot, these culturally curious themes are sewn into Miller’s psyche. His father would bring home items from distant countries, sparking curiosity and amazement in the young boy. In adolescence, his family relocated indefinitely to Hawaii, where Miller received his first dose of formal training from Honolulu Academy of the Arts. At the age of twenty, Miller left Hawaii for a year-long trip through the Far East. Miller was amazed by the lifestyle, for instance, a fisherman who held his post along the seaside from sunrise until sunset, waiting all day long for his bounty.
He skipped from Japan to the Philippines, to Thailand, Nepal, then on to Morocco, and finally was invited by a family friend to visit Southampton, NY. Upon arrival, Miller met a group of surfers and camped out at Flying Point Beach; Miller’s first morning on Long Island, he woke up to the sun rising over the dunes along the ocean. He felt right at home, and pretty quickly, he was immersed within the local art community. He visited Southampton College, was urged to compete for a scholarship, and take out a loan; he was swiftly approved by a banker who claimed Miller “looked like a nice kid”, and he completes his degree within three years.
In the many years since then, Miller would, of course, continue travelling the globe; at one point, he purchased land in Portugal, and later, a farm in Costa Rica. However, it was the East End of Long Island that he claims is his “good luck place”. Upon a random visit to a new place after a year-long expedition across oceans, Miller landed in the town that he would ultimately lay down long-term roots for both his family, and his career as an artist. Miller states: “Out of nothing, came something special”.
Miller claims his work is about Trans-Oceanic Migration. He is clearly inspired by the ideas of high-adventure, and of taking risks. The geographic history of humans and cultures is a major inspiration throughout his work. For example, Miller says: “Did you know that the first settlers on Hawaii, were Tahitians.” He’s always asking himself, “How did cultures survive and evolve over time? What advancements were created to make life easier?”
“The Navigator” shows us an Eastern Figure, dressed in indigenous peasant fashions, voyaging through aquatic terrain made up of pyramid-shaped waves. A long boat sails across a white sea beneath a periwinkle horizon. The boat carries a tree, bringing local fruits to the new land; a nod to the hope and resilience of an immigrant. Engineering symbols and tools populate the foreground. Perhaps these tools are also foreign to their destination, and conceivably they will serve as a catalyst towards a newfound efficiency. Miller creates a dreamy patchwork storyboard, that the viewer has to piece together.
In “Illustrated Man” we see a single figure, covered in tattoos; portraits, designs, and patterns coat the man's skin from torso to fingertips. His face remains pure, unscathed from any ink marks; clear-headed and gazing forward. Behind him, Miller presents an obscure tapestry of civilization, an empire of sandy structures under a lapis lazuli night sky. Winding roads lead to city walls, while shadows and foundation-lines melt into creatures; a toothy alligator appears out of a stone façade – perhaps a ghost from ages-old legends, or a figment of one’s imagination. To the left, a fresco of overlapping faces take shape; perhaps giving likeness’s to the generations of the metropolis's inhabitants over time. The “Illustrated Man” sits upon an abstract plane of blue and white paint – which gives the impression of outer space. Resting on this plane, the man cruises from ancient civilization, onward.
“Cliff Village” is a poetic composition which juxtaposes wild land against engineered structure. The Villagesits high on a mountaintop, excavated by man into rectangular forms and levels made suitable for habitation. Ladders lean against walls, suggesting further development under-way. Two rivers stream from the center – natural waters carving their own path downhill in striking torrents of teal and turquoise.
In “Read All About It (Billboard Series)” Miller presents a large billboard, diagonally reaching from left to right, casting shadows behind, and intrigue up front. Three figures approach the billboard, inspecting each slide. These figures’ however, are not people, but animals. A porcupine, a fox, and a warthog move toward the billboard and read the hieroglyphics being broadcasted. In what world is this taking place? Are we in another dimension, where animals can read? Are they reading current events, like the news? Or are they simply ogling the latest cartoons? Perhaps they recognize themselves somewhere within the frieze.
Viktor Butko, (b.1978, Moscow) was invited to Sag Harbor in 2016 to paint with the Grenning-Gallery-formed Russian American Painting Alliance. Not only were Butko’s eyes fresh to our pictorial landscape; his attention to light and shadow were searingly satisfying. Butko’s use of soft colors unifying in the sky juxtaposed with thick, heavy outlines and backlit configurations are all at once transfixing and yet, comforting. For instance, in Alizarin Sky in Winter, the viewer is presented with a familiarly icy setting, where tall trees reach up with bare limbs, shaking in subzero chills. Hues of pale greys, earthy browns, and yellowed whites, are true to nature, yet not instantaneously admired. However, when juxtaposed with the glowing sky above, the whole painting embodies a warmth, a sense of hope. Finding splendor within the gloom of winter, Butko is a master at finding and replicating these moments on his canvases.
Viktor Butko is extremely familiar with the snow-covered landscape – having grown up on the outskirts of Moscow in Russia. Butko has studied the many colors you find in cold white snow, for decades; and he follows in his father’s, and grandfather’s footsteps, who are also well-known, and celebrated plein-air painters in Russia. Standing out in the cold, with paintbrushes and ice-coated boots is a family tradition. Butko’s keen sense of cool tones is extraordinarily striking when applied to warmer settings, for instance: “Cloudy Sunset at Dering Harbor”. Painted en plein air, on Shelter Island, a lone rowboat floats along the shoreline. A bright, salmon colored setting sun, descends onto a violet horizon. The cool clouds divide the sky from the land in thick, flat, stripes. A sliver of distant sea glows between the horizon and the reflected clouds. A scattering of sailboats at rest reside in this faraway slice of golden water.