Gallery 208 is pleased to introduce artist Joseph Begnaud to Fayetteville, North Carolina, in his first solo exhibition at a local gallery in this city. “Joseph Begnaud: Separate from the Natural World” opens with an artist’s reception Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Gallery 208 from 5:30-7 p.m. The exhibit will hang until March 15.
Visitors will readily see Begnaud’s preference for placing a solitary figure in an environment that is equally important as the figure itself. In an exhibit that includes work produced during the last 12 years, the figure always appears theatrical – yet, depending on the year and scale, there is a striking difference in the way the figure is represented.
For example, the larger works in the exhibit created 10 years ago in a series titled “fictional transitions” appear deceivingly descriptive compared to the abstracted smaller works in his series titled “small ones.”
No matter what the scale is in Begnaud’s work, an underlying theme appears to be the figure in states of being and transformation. The figure is never separate from the environment. What changes is how the figures merge with and ultimately into the environment. The background, or environment, of the larger works is never still, never flattened but shifting and vibrating. In comparison, the environment in the small works is abstract and oozy.
As well as a shift in scale, the artist’s approach to color and to painterly qualities to express meaning has changed throughout his body of work. In the paintings titled “Cockatoo Formal” (2004-2005) or “Untitled” (2005), Begnaud’s palette had already become more monochromatic than his earlier works. In moving past the narrative, one can see the pictorial form of his style relies on mass and shadow to create fluidity. Details depend upon color rather than line, and the viewer’s eyes move across the surface of the painting to see past the figure toward the essence of the painting.
Subtle linear elements are always present in the artist’s works. However, in the later small works, Begnaud gives way to immerse the figure in a dominant, painterly environment of mark-making and color. The artist commented: “Working small is a relatively recent development. I find that the works on paper have a very different quality as objects than the larger work that relies on scale for effect. Their viewing space is more intimate, which places a greater demand on pictorial space just as it allows more range of appreciation for surface texture and mark.”
Many visitors seeing an artist’s work are interested in the artist’s process. Begnaud refers to his paintings as dreams. He stated, “My paintings are dreams, not because they reference actual experiences or illustrations of a literal dream that I have had. Dreaming is a play of the mind that operates on a level of metaphor and emotion. References are derived from daily life but are in no way subject to reality’s normal laws. My painting process often begins abstractly, without a model, and projects images from memory and imagination directly onto the canvas. Passages of paint transform into sleepers and animals, and the narrative develops with the image.”
The artist’s formal training and his experiences have had a direct influence on his style and his series of paintings. Begnaud earned a Bachelor of Fine Art in Studio from the University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio. While a student at the University of Dayton, he received a four-week study grant to live and work in Florence, Italy. The artist said, “This first international experience, which included excursions to Sienna, Rome and Pompeii, greatly affected my work, inspiring the ‘sleep series,’ which I began in the fall of 1995.”
Directly after completing his BFA, Begnaud was awarded a full scholarship to Indiana University in Bloomington. He graduated with Master of Fine Arts in Painting. He lived and worked in New York for two years before working briefly in Saint Louis, Missouri, and Interlochen, Michigan, at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
In 2001, Begnaud moved to Portland, Maine, and joined the Artist’s Studio Community. For the last four years, he has resided in Warsaw, Poland, during the summers and studied art in the galleries and museums of Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw, all of which are in Poland, and Prague, the Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria.
In 2006, he began a collaboration with Stefan Niedzialkowski and the actors of the Mimes Studio in Warsaw, which culminated in an exhibition of drawings at the Center for Mazovian Culture in Warsaw, in 2007.
Presently, Begnaud is an associate professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, in Pembroke, North Carolina. Some of his most recent solo exhibitions in North Carolina include the following: “Curious Company” at the SE Health Foundation in Lumberton, in 2015; “Portraits: Actual and Imagined” at the Bladenboro Art Gallery in Bladenboro, in 2014; and “Northern Stories” at Givens Performing Arts Center in Pembroke, in 2013.
A short list of Begnaud’s most recent group exhibitions in 2016 includes: “In Your Dreams: National Juried Exhibition,” San Rafael, California; “tXtMe,” National Juried Exhibition at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, California; and “Words: A National Juried Exhibition,” in Lincoln, California.
An accomplished professional artist, Begnaud noted how the metaphor is relevant in his work. Visitors to “Joseph Begnaud: Separate from the Natural World” at Gallery 208 will see how he has created a metaphorical, conceptual framework to simulate the viewer’s imagination for new ways of looking. The first opportunity to see his work will be at the opening and artist reception Jan. 9. The public is invited. The artist will speak at 6 p.m.
Gallery 208 is located at 208 Rowan St. in downtown Fayetteville at the headquarters of Up & Coming Weekly. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. For information, call 910-484-6200 or visit www.upandcomingweekly.com and click on Gallery 208.