Robert Percy: Toward the Invisible


November 5, 2011 - January 1, 2012     

Opening Reception:  Saturday, November 12,  2011, 6-9 pm 

Artist's Talk:  Friday, November 18,  6:30 pm




“I have painted for the first 25 years under the influence of everything western. But here in the Bay Area, the eastern Pacific rim, there is a strong and important mix of east and west. My paintings are my contributions to a language of surprise and delight.” – Robert Percy



Smith Andersen North is pleased to present our first solo exhibition of painter Robert Percy’s works on paper: Toward the Invisible


In 1996, Robert Percy travelled to Hangzhou China, where he studied calligraphy and discovered the soft brushes, lacquer-free ink, handmade paper, and tabletop method that would become integral to his work. On a subsequent visit to several paper studios in central and south Japan, he found an incredible variety of handmade [or Washi]  papers, eventually settling on the thinnest kozo paper which allows the paint to bleed through when applied to the backside. Percy writes, “Backside painting allows ‘chance’ to occur and removes much of my own particular controlling intent.” Percy further complicates this “controlling intent” through his handling of the paper beforehand, often drenching the kozo paper in water and embossing it with found objects before applying the ink. This creates a terrain for the ink to travel—while Percy controls the surface in lines and grids and other recognizable forms, the “landscape” of the paper ultimately determines the path. It is this tension that gives Percy’s work its particular vibrancy. 


B. Kalivac Carroll comments on Percy’s method in his essay, "Transcultural Intuition and Beauty in the Paintings of Robert Percy": “By allowing his intuitive intelligence to govern his uses of line and color via spontaneity and chance, Robert Percy applies what philosopher and writer Michel Henry identified in the abstractions of Wassily Kandinsky as “the invisibility of absolute subjectivity…” 


While anything but invisible, Percy’s paintings do offer up a glimpse of their moment of creation—a quivering, ever-present moment when the artist becomes “a partner with the paper”[1], and invisible forces are brought to light in stunning color and texture. 




Above: Robert Percy, Thumb Roots. Sumi-e ink & casein on kozo paper, 42 1/2 x 78", 2005.


[1] Carroll, “Transcultural Intuition and Beauty in the Paintings of Robert Percy”, 2011.