Philosophy of art |

Philosophy of art

Michael Dowling draws on texts, ideas for abstract work

Margaret Hair

Fabric artist Wendy Kowynia shows some pieces she has weaved.

— Before Denver artist Michael Dowling started thinking in abstract iconography and intricate landscapes, he thought in philosophy. In many of his paintings, that background comes through, as in his recent collection of big abstract works very loosely based on religious texts.

“I’m really interested by that iconography and these images and what goes along with them,” Dowling said of the crosses and doves shadowing his large-scale paintings. As in philosophy, there aren’t a lot of concrete answers in Dowling’s contemporary work. The pieces, opening with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. today at K. Saari Gallery, are more based on an idea of an idea.

“I always tell people that it’s far more important to me that they have their own story about my work, but as a very base idea in the work, it’s very much about hope,” Dowling said. “It’s not really about what I’m hoping for, or even that I necessarily know what I would be hoping for.”

When Kimberly Saari first started working with Dowling on the November show, ideas of ideas are not exactly what she expected. Saari was thinking more in terms of pictures of tree-lined horizons.

“Michael is also known for doing very intricate landscapes, and to see a departure from that was surprising and wonderful,” Saari said. The show came together when Dowling – who has shown work in Steamboat Springs before, but not in the past few years – walked into Saari’s gallery and said he liked the feel of the space and would like to display paintings there.

“Every gallerist hears that, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m sure the painting of your grandmother will be lovely,'” Dowling said. But Saari knew Dowling’s work and took his word – even if the resulting collection was worlds away from what she expected.

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Dowling said he’s always separated his work into two bodies: physical landscapes and idea-based pieces.

“There’s a joy in painting something that is physically there, and that is not just kind of symbolic. It’s nice to be able to sit down and do a recreation of that thing,” Dowling said. “I guess this is just a much more philosophical approach to image making.”

Dowling’s “New Paintings,” a collection of large works featuring a hefty amount of contrast between light and dark, will be on the walls at K. Saari Gallery through the end of November.