Tom Cramer, Gold Rush (2002),
oil/metal leaf on carved wood relief
[Mark Woolley Gallery,
Sep 30-Nov 1,
Most Portlanders know Tom
Cramer for his landmark outdoor murals, wildly-painted art cars and
carved miniature totems – all of which are bright, bold and lean
toward American pop-culture.
In the past few years, after travelling to India, Cramer’s
techniques have become much more humble and reflective. His carved
and painted wood reliefs speak more about subtle layers of reality
than of graphic design. The intricately carved fractal-like
patterning almost appears caused by chance or accident, rather than
determined by the artist. In other pieces, Cramer has applied
subliminal imagery in embedded, kaleidoscopic patterns.
Cramer’s tactile work
expresses something infinite and intangible. Bordering abstraction
and reality, confusion and clarity, and the invented and the
improvised, these laborious baroque pieces seem to be crafted in the
vein of William Blake’s poetic concept: that the road of excess
leads to the palace of wisdom. In emphasis, they have gilded
surfaces inspired by the art of India.
For Cramer, the creative process is like a
retreat from reality. The artist would delight in viewers being able
to see beyond the seemingly decorative aspect of his work to the
transcendent intensity of a new perspective.