Investigations Exhibition In Millerton Hopes To Raise Questions

Jul 12, 2019

A husband and wife duo who call Berkshire County home are showing their paintings at a gallery in Millerton, New York this summer.

Virginia Bradley and Chris Malcomson are recent transplants to the Berkshires, moving to Great Barrington in 2017.

“I was a professor at the University of Delaware before moving to Great Barrington," Bradley told WAMC. “And prior to that, I was at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design at St. Cloud University, and I was a core fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston before I started in academia.”

“I was a civil engineer – I’m actually a fellow at the Institute of Civil Engineers," said Malcomson. “I worked as a consulting engineer for 30 years, and mainly with a firm called Samuely and Partners, and Samuely was a guy who worked with the Bauhaus and as a refugee eventually came to England and set up a consulting firm here.”

They both have distinct philosophies of painting.

“I really think that the base of my work is about alchemy," said Bradley. "And the studio becomes a laboratory for exploration and combining materials, or transforming materials to raise the level of contemplation and reach another level of sophistication where the possibilities are about asking questions rather than about giving answers.”

Malcomson – reflecting his engineering background – opts for a kind of functionality in his art.

“What I try to do is to create painting which are good for people to live with, who actually offer them something. I went to an exhibition years ago – in fact, at the Royal Academy in London – and every year, at the summer show, they invite various – they take various themes, and this was on American painting. And the main room had a couple Barnett Newmans which were totally black, and they lent a whole serenity to the room.”

The two series he’s presenting in the show range from watercolors painted at the couple’s studio in Puerto Rico as well as more abstract oil paintings, often in various shades of red.

“The landscapes that I do tend to have a stillness about them, and the larger paintings I do are really for people to stand in front of and just allow them to move anywhere they want to as it were in their psychology, if that makes any kind of sense, and also through the color and form to offer something to their living space and to give some kind of peace to our very busy lives.”

Bradley’s work – which includes paintings on transparent archival film as well as oil on canvas inspired by the Berkshires – also channels her time spent on the island.

“Being in that atmosphere – I’m a big swimmer, love to snorkel – that’s really embedded in my subconscious. So as I’m working on this series of paintings, you can really see the sort of color of the Carribean and textures coming from the see and underwater life even though they’re not underwater landscapes necessarily.”

She embraces an abstract approach to creating art.

“When I start painting, I have no idea where I’m going to end up. It’s really about working in equilibrium with the materials and the painting, responding to how the paint is poured – I do a lot of pouring of paint on the floor. I might be looking at a photograph for a departure point, but that photograph is very quickly left behind and I’m just responding to the materials. And I really don’t want my hand to even be present in the painting in the end – I want it to be as it I’ve been working in equilibrium with the painting and the materials and this sort of third voice comes out of it.”

Bradley’s and Malcomson’s joint show, Investigations, is up at the North Elm Home Gallery in Millerton through August 31st.