Think Pieces

Tredway's narrative paintings engage the mind as well as eye at Fred Simon Gallery


Lincoln-based painter Nolan Tredway is featured at the Fred Simon Gallery until Jan. 8, 2016 with an assortment of oil paintings well worth a visit.  Most were done in 2015—this is a prolific, focused young artist.  He paints large oils, works as a filmmaker, even designs toys. 

There’s a lot to like about Tredway’s approach—with finely wrought and multiple layers of oil paint, along with the frequent use of flat design and interesting color choices which pull his work out of realism and into personal invention with a more contemporary feel.  

Because the works are spread throughout the venue, one has an opportunity to study each as a singular entity.  Lost Canyon in the first room goes beyond a simple rendering of the Grand Canyon, which some planners feel a need for added amenities in order to continue attracting more visitors. 

He adds bees (also threatened), small human figures, colored disc shapes that float in space and an over-the-top red-purple haze to the canyon itself.  This approach lends itself to his assertion that each work becomes a separate entity —a total statement in itself.  

In his words each painting “is just another invented object.” But one might surmise that the artist also thinks we might well want to leave the canyon as it is, without “amenities.”

The set of three very different versions of “Monsters in Business Suits in shaped wood are great fun.  Tredway observes that a suit is a disguise—because both good and bad guys wear suits.  One might choose to apply that observation to the state of the corporate world. 

Perdido en el Siglos(lost in the century), shown, is based on Tredway’s sojourn with the Zapatistas, an indigenous Mayan people in Chiapas, Mexico whose voice seems to be more closely akin to poetry to Tredway, a student of language. “They think in centuries, unlike us.”

The Zapatistas had been enslaved in Colonial times, and their rich land usurped by the Spanish and later, business profiteers.  Finally released from peonage in the 1950’s and 60’s, the people migrated to the denuded forest lands to begin again. They ask only to be left to their natural world, unfettered by modern society.  

They believe the North American Free Trade Act, or NAFTA has been the death knell for the people of Chiapas.  The enigmatic female figure amidst lush water lilies seems to look out at the viewer with quiet confidence, reminding one of Manet’s women who gazed with equanimity at the viewer in Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and Olympialong ago. 

The lovely young woman in Perdido en el Siglosmight be there with the knife to harvest plants. But the world may well see her as too assertive, as the French society saw Manet’s work. In this painting, it’s this young woman’s bold demeanor that may seem to be threatening.

Tredway alluded to today’s world when the Russian government imprisoned “Pussy Riot”, a rock group of young women, for doing nothing but asserting their human rights.  He sees this general fear of strong women as a confrontation to patriarchal dominance. 

The beautiful scenery and colors in this painting might tend to draw one to study this lovely oil work carefully, and perhaps better understand the wisdom of both women and indigenous peoples.

The 96” wide panel, “Witches of White Sands,” is inspired from Tredway’s trip to Las Cruces, New Mexico to stay with a group of women involved in energy work.  He says he doesn’t know this art work’s meaning yet.  It’s composed of three female figures centered in a huge desert-like landscape. 

Perhaps to most viewers it’s enough to enjoy a beautifully painted and cloud-lit landscape. But some might question the meaning of their mysterious purposes. Cosmic Latte vs. Eigengrau”, shows two young male figures in a wooded landscape: one is dark, (eigengrau color) and reaching toward the one wearing white wolf headgear that represents universal light (cosmic latte).

Tredway sees this work as a person’s journey of being in darkness and reaching for the light.   This work started as a concept which led to the painting.  Other works, like Simulacra”, come to the artist “fully formed—it’s just a matter of working out the details.” It appears that his extensive travels and studies are essential to the creation of this art.  The artist Mark Rothko’s statement seems to fit this artist:  “You cannot be an artist unless you are learned. Most of painting is thinking.”

Nolan Tredway is a Nebraska native, graduating from University of Nebraska at Lincoln, along with course-work at the Fundacion Ortega y Gasset in Toledo, Spain.  He juxtaposes classical, many-layered oil techniques in a contemporary, often mythological approach.

He constructs his own wood panels for paintings in order to achieve the large expanses necessary for his ideas. Tredway divides his time between Lincoln and Omaha, working primarily as a painter and filmmaker. Co-director of Tugboat Gallery in Lincoln, Tredway has earned the Ida M. Vreeland Award and a Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship. 

Nolan Tredway continues until Jan. 8, 2016 at the Fred Simon Gallery, 1004 Farnam St., Omaha, NE. For show details and hours, go to artscouncil.nebraska.gov.


Category: Art, Literary
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