Visual Arts

Artist Illustrates a Fiction With Featureless Topographies

The stark terrains of Garland Fielder, as seen in his “The Map and the Territory” exhibit at Anya Tish Gallery, are evocative of both the angular landscapes of a video game and the featureless simulated topography seen by a military pilot navigating a drone 7,000 miles away from its target.

Fielder, who recently returned to school to obtain his Master’s in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin, is interested in recreating or illustrating a fiction.

The paradigm is literal in some cases, such as in the three-dimensional sculpture Topographic Model E (Predator Drone), which features four layers of wood – shined to a pristine white finish with automotive paint – under surveillance by a shadowy drone hanging overhead.

In Diagram C_03, the sleek, needle-nosed drone descends into frame against the dark night sky, over a finite-edged surface reminiscent of an aircraft carrier’s deck.

To create his two-dimensional works, the artist begins by constructing a physical model made of wood and Hycrocal® – the same white gypsum cement used in arts and crafts to create statuary, figurines and lamp bases. His forms are then photographed from an angle, positioning the lighting to best capture the shadows, before duplicating the results onto canvas using acrylic paint and one-sixteenth inch tape. Two of the models are included in the exhibit: Topographic Model A and Topographic Model B.

In his paintings, he applies so many layers to the monochromatic works that the paint seems to rest on the surface, resulting in a subtle, added dimensionality for those who gaze too closely. Setting the scenes against a black void of nothingness adds drama, especially in the maze-like Diagram C_01, where one false move would send the maze runner into dystopian nothingness; and the Escher-like Diagram B_02, which tasks the viewer into verifying the elevations and shallows. His cool palette of whites, grays and blues continues the story in Diagram C_02, with the maze dominating the canvas, as well as in the heavily ramped Diagram B_01.

Under the moniker Diagram A_05 are six smaller 10-inch by 10-inch canvases mounted on wood, offering variations on the limitless horizons with one forest green, one tan and one blue background complementing the infinite depths of the black backdrops in the remaining three works.

The exhibit also includes two un-named wooden forms, skeleton-like structures that echo the angles of his sculptures and paintings, offering harmonic balance to the gallery space.

Mathematics has always been an element to Fielder’s process, though to a lesser degree with this exhibit. Previous works include 2010’s octahedron and open-sided cubes, 2009’s dodecahedron, 2008’s icosahedron and hexahedron, and the contorted cube forms of 2007. He is a regular artist at Anya Tish Gallery, with annual shows beginning with the “Three in 3-D” group exhibition in 2007, though this is his first return since a similarly titled group exhibition in 2010.

“The Map and the Territory” continues through February 6, at Anya Tish Gallery, 4411 Montrose, open Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-524-2299, Free.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney