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October 4 - 25, 2003 at Sarah Bain Gallery, Orange County

by Daniella Walsh

Gerard Bourgeois, a young painter of Vietnamese/French heritage who was born on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, has often encompassed in his work themes of physical and spiritual voyaging. He is noted for his paintings of metaphorical ships that appear to be in motion until one looked more closely to discover that some were moored on rocks or stretches of land, poised to sail nowhere.

This theme of movement and change and its ante-cedent, stagnation, has been an element pervading work that was (and still is) representational without being overly realistic. However, while his earlier paintings were strong and more starkly linear, his latest work has become much softer. Rather than illustrating meticulously, Bourgeois now tends to suggest and, even though he still eschews abstraction, his current work makes one wonder whether he might some day veer in that direction.

What is particularly notable in On Reflections is the strong new palette. While a few dark lines outline shrubs and trees, and water flows in hues of grayish whites and blues, the overall vista has turned orange and brown. The resulting atmosphere reminds one of fall or, hereabouts, of never ending sunsets.

Compositions are simple: Shrubs or small trees protrude from hills or still waters. A surreally quiet or dramatically clouded sky hovers over a body of water or the suggestion of hills and grasslands. The flora, placed either solitarily or in twos, suggests isolation, a lone existence in a crowded world. Carefully applied paint, paired with thin layers of encaustics, adds interest to compositions that are, although pleasing, marred by elements of sameness.

Still, this similarity between the 16 paintings and studies does not take away from one’s impression that Bourgeois continues to experiment with texture and light while honing his vision and, even if this show is rather monochromatic overall, it is a definite stepping stone in the advancement of a talented painter. Bourgeois has said that he has to move forward in order not to become bored. If he keeps following that credo, we still have much to look forward to.

“The Approach,” 2003,
oil on panel, 24 x 42”.

“Highway 152,” 2003,
oil on panel, 33 x 48”.

“On Reflection,” 2003,
oil on panel, 15 x 36”.

“Reflets,” 2003,
oil on panel, 30 x 48”.