There is a painting that hangs behind my desk in Stafford Gallery named Kyuka. This translates from Japanese to “time off,” and since the Covid-19 pandemic that is something many of us have been forced to do. Job losses, or an adjustment of priorities, reevaluating how we spend our time has permeated 2020 and 2021. Often it has found us cozying up in our homes more than we ever have, more time with family, more time to simply be.
Kyuka is a serene, Zen-inspired oceanscape painting created with Venetian plaster by artist Bernie Weston. Long before the pandemic Weston strived to convey peace and balance in his paintings. Having studied asian philosophy and sumi-e brushwork, his unique style summons its viewers to be present. Sathya Sai Baba said, “Every experience is a lesson. Every loss is a gain.”
In 2020, art museums were offering online therapeutic exhibits to help people cope and engage with fine art. Art collecting during Covid also brought visual comfort from an overwhelming amount of sudden stress, bringing people serenity and beautifying the space that they were spending their time most inside. Now, a year and a half later, Bernie finds that there is still a sense of hopefulness and dutifulness for working artists, similar to their reaction after the 9/11 attacks. There is a need for peace and healing that he and many artists he knows recognize, and they are stepping up to the challenge.
The underlying motivating factor for Bernie Weston’s paintings has always been empathy. Like the Isenheim Altarpiece, Bernie’s paintings have been displayed at local hospitals to help those suffering. He learned from artist Gong Yuebin to use the principles of Chinese painting, a composition that employs emotional techniques to paint powerful landscapes. Even the glow of the mica and wax suggest some element of positivity or intent to uplift. These paintings offer sanctuary within the homes they move to, bringing a joy that its viewers can surround themselves with permanently.
Art is why I get up in the morning. The opportunity to be a matchmaker; to serve as liaison between the collector, the artist and the art.