“Perfectly Precarious,” at Kai Lin Art through October 25, is a four-artist show as delicately balanced as its title implies. Sumi ink paintings by Zen roshi Michael Elliston complement similarly fragile drawings of flocks of birds by Lisa Hart, and robust mandalas from the unexpectedly diverse Sam Parker counterbalance photoencaustic dream visions by Greg Noblin.
What the four have in common is a communion with the invisible realm of the spirit or mind.
Elliston accesses it through the spontaneous movement of liquid media that have a mind of their own (as it does in Seana Reilly’s abstract landscape paintings, also based in Buddhist practice).
Hart alludes to archetypes of flight, creating repeated images of how flocks of birds form mysteriously cooperative patterns. She distills this fact of nature into a poetic visual metaphor that touches on deep emotion as much as Elliston’s abstract flows and pours do.
Parker’s rigorously exact mandalas seem to radiate energy, thanks to a series of visual devices. For example, placing a dark blue mandala pattern on a brown background makes a normally subdued color glow with an inner intensity. With titles ranging from “Star Tetrahedron” to “Seed Unto Itself,” Parker’s intricate circularities and alternative geometries bespeak an interest in inwardness that is less defined and more exploratory than the settled definitions of Buddhist or Hindu practice, but it grows out of them.
Greg Noblin’s visions, by contrast, seem like amusingly literal renderings of the absurdities that the unconscious spews forth in dreams that leave us laughing in the morning, even as we have the uneasy feeling that our minds are trying to tell us something we don’t want to know. A dog in a chair is borne aloft by balloons; pigeons perch on a grand piano that sits alone in a meadow; a biplane splits the earth on another rural meadow by pulling on a cord attached to a giant zipper. (The last image is titled “The Great Divide,” a wordplay on a geological feature that is exactly the sort of trick the unconscious mind likes to pull on our literal-minded waking selves.)
Noblin’s technically accomplished visual jokes make a particularly startling contrast to Elliston’s vibrant works on paper on the other side of the gallery, but that, I suppose, is what makes this exhibition perfectly precarious, in a way that devotees of Zen might appreciate.
On our home page: Sam Parker’s “Precession.”