Artist Leaves No Stone Unturned in Search of Inspiration



Sticks and stones and bits of volcanic cones: That’s what Jill Lena Ford’s art is made of. But to absorb thepowerfulforce of her multi-faceted work, one must look deeper than the earthly materials that adorn her canvases. Her colorful and ornate abstracts are meant to convey the people and places she has bonded withduring her travels around the globe to ancient enclaves of spirituality and cradles of human civilization.

Whether in the dusty streets of Morocco or verdant hills of the Philippines, Ford intuitively collects materials that evoke the country and its people, but which always come from the Earth. She uses remnants of our planet – shells, twigs, pebbles, sand, feathers and flowers – to honor the beauty of nature that surrounds all of us. The items not only have a connection to the land from whence they came, but when arranged in symbolic patterns atop layers of paint on a canvas, they also tell a story about that place and its culture.

“Everything on the planet has anenergy and a light,” said the artist from her home in Hawaii. “I'm not only painting with shells and sand and flowers, but with the light that they have, too.”

And that light shines from her three-dimensional works that evoke harmony, balance and the interconnection of all life on Earth. The artist says it’s important to her that viewers of her work experience a sense of joy and serenity, but she also hopes they relate with her work on a spiritual level.

Ford’s Organic Works Are ‘Alive’

A trained painter who studied art and psychology at Northern Arizona University before continuing her education to earn a MFA in art education, Ford cannot be pigeonholed as an artist. She coined her own term to describe her self-styled idiom, calling it “organic mixed media.”

“I guess I was just tired of trying to explain what I did,” she said matter-of-factly. “My paintings are truly alive. I felt the term ‘organic’ helped people understand a little bit more that it is alive.”

As a painter, she admires masters such as Gustav Klimt and Vincent Van Gogh, but it is contemporary British artist Andy Goldsworthy who has had the most influence on her mixed media projects. Like Ford, Goldsworthy works with natural elements; he creates site-specific sculptures using such things as flowers, icicles, pinecones and mud.

But perhaps Ford’s biggest influence has been her father. She credits Ray Ford, a retired US Airways employ, with instilling a sense of adventure and love of travel in her at an early age. She was born in Pittsburgh in 1978 and when she was growing up, her family was always bound for some new destination, she remembers. But it wasn’t until she saw the majestic redwood trees of California in 2000 that she was inspired to do more than just paint an image of what she saw. She created her first mixed media piece based on her journey to the primeval forest and her work has continued to evolve since then with each new place she visits. To date she has given artistic expression to her experiences in Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Morocco and Belize, as well as Hawaii, where she has lived on the island of Kauai since 2011.

Destinations Chosen for Their Culture and Natural Beauty

“The places I travel are pretty tribal places,” Ford said, describing how she selects her destinations. “I definitely like to see countries that are less developed and more traditional in their culture. I have an idea of the places I want to go and it just feels right to go to certain places. But a lot of it is the culture and natural beauty there.”

India is one country that’s beckoning; meanwhile, in 2012, Ford will embark on a new journey to Nepal and Tibet to take in the Himalayas and open her spirit further to the doctrines of Hinduism and Buddhism. On her ambitious itinerary is a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, one of the most sacred places on earth, attracting devout followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Bon and Ayyavazhi.

"I will find inspiration in my own pilgrimage to this mountain…in the journey itself. It will be a difficult one, crossing rugged terrain in cold weather, taking possibly over a week to complete," the artist opined. "But it will be an awe-inspiring adventure and an opportunity to view some of the most magical scenery on the entire planet...The art works created from this portion of my trip will be powerfully infused with the pure and raw energy of the Universe, radiating from the natural materials that I will use to create them and the mythical wisdom that I will learn along the way."

Eco-Friendly Paints Are Part of the Process

Because she creates many works on site, as well as in her studio once she returns from her artistic safaris, Ford has learned how to best travel with her materials. She uses water mixable oils, which are friendly to the environment because they don’t require toxic solvents for thinning or cleanup; and her acrylics are made from recycled paints.

She begins by priming her canvas with multiple layers of metallics, oils, glazes and acrylics until she achieves the desired hue she envisions, often transitioning from one shade of a color to another as she plays with themes of fire and water. Once the painting is completed, she applies the natural materials that she gathers from various locales: beaches, fields, mountains, even cities. While she is often presented with objects as gifts from people she meets on her travels, she usually collectsitems herself, making sure first that she has permission and being careful not to harm the environment in her harvest.

“The location is what goes into my work so I want to portray that and do it as well as I can,” she said. “I have a feeling in me when I'm out collecting. It's definitely a spiritual and emotional thing as well as the aesthetic.”

Objects Arranged in Patterns That Reflect People and Places

Collecting, washing and drying the natural materials is a process in itself to ensure that they will endure once she places them on the canvas, which often induces a meditative or trance-like state. Using repetition of objects in patterns evocative of the country she is visiting, she strives for balance, fluidity and movement in her compositions.

“I use a lot of spirals,” she said, acknowledging a reference to Hinduism. “The meaning behind the spiral is kind of this life force -- the energy of all life, the flow -- and it's infinity, it's forever going not only inward but also outward with infinite connections to the outer world.”

Collectors of her work tend to see the bigger picture and the artist’s desire to bridge people and cultures through her creations. With each new journey, her work continues to evolve.

I think the interconnection, the common threads that run through all living things, that's a very big motivation for me when I travel and when I do my work,” she said. “There's never going to be a dull moment in my art. I have this never ending flow I've tapped into and it's just unstoppable.”

Seth Garland

Artist  Bio & Resume

Halcyon Drift 20 X 38 oil on panel

Seth Garland was born in Cornwall in 1977. His passion for painting stems from his background as his parents are both top professional illustrators, his father being best known for illustrating the Tolkien book jackets. This constant connection with the visual arts created a vibrant illustrative environment in which to grow up and where his obsession for painting began. During his study at Central Saint Martins, Garland won second prize in 'The Art of Imagination Open Competition', held at the Mall Galleries, London and was their youngest prize winner at the age of 20. His paintings are influenced by the works of the Italian High Renaissance.

By reviving a Renaissance method (the same used by Leonardo da Vinci and Holbein) and marrying it with the compositional approach of fashion photographers, the result is a sumptuous hybrid of modern beauty and Renaissance nuances. His work shows an understanding of histories present within the painting process, his contemporary approach to panel painting uses contemporary subject matter to employ these techniques in a modern context.


Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
Plymouth College of Art and Design

Awards / Exhibitions

Seth Garland, Cubed, Solo exhibition at the Albemarle Gallery, London (catalogue).
Summer Show, group exhibition at the Albemarle Gallery, London (catalogue).
Art of the Imagination Open Competition. Mall Galleries London. Second Prize. Awarded £1500. Youngest prizewinner at the age of 20
Exhibited permanently at Lakeside Gallery, Cornwall as part of a three person show.
Exhibited permanently at Lakeside Gallery Barbican, Plymouth as an artist in residence.
Art of the Imagination Open Competition, Mall Galleries, London Juror: Bridget Marlin, co-founder of the Art of the Imagination Society together with Professor Ernst Fuchs and H R Giger. Prize Winner.
Art of the Imagination Open Competition, Mall Galleries, London Juror: Ernst Fuchs, Professor of Art, Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, Vienna, Austria.


The Artistic Nature of Ron Kent

A Special Essay by Kevin Wallace, Specialist in American Wood Turning

Ron Kent is an artist driven by an insatiable aesthetic curiosity that demands he transcend the tried and true by rebelling against even those trails he has himself blazed. Refusing to be limited to any particular medium, process or form, he is constantly challenging preconceptions and reinventing himself through a progressive exploration of self-expression. The constant is his embrace of the organic, whether the beauty found in the grain - and sometimes decay - of wood, or in the transformation of manmade materials such as Polyurethane Foam.
A consideration of the Vessel Series works in the exhibition offers an excellent stepping off point in understanding the artist's work. Although they are not his initial forays into the realm of self-expression, they represent what originally made his reputation, leading to his being in the collection of a number of U.S. presidents and other world leaders. Executed in Norfolk Island pine - a wood that offers striking knot patterns and figure that result in beautiful abstract designs - these works seduced collectors and museum curators with their use of form and material.
Though totally dependent upon nature for line, gesture and coloration, there has always been a strong relationship between Kent's Vessel Series works and abstract painting. The expanse of Kent's bowls and his platters take full advantage of the natural formations that are often quite similar to the canvases of the Abstract Expressionists. In the case of Kent's work however, there is also line and form, largely dictated by the natural abstraction found in a particular piece of timber. The process of revealing this organic beauty resulted in the transcendence of forms associated with function into the realm of art.
Utilizing a process of repeatedly turning, sanding and soaking the works in oil, the Vessel Series works glow under gallery lighting and, balanced on a narrow foot, they appear to hover above the pedestal. While they are stunningly beautiful and showcase great technical accomplishment, they are quite often not about the physical object at all. When illuminated and displayed in a darkened environment, they concern light and form and have more in common with Light and Space artists such as Larry Bell, than with other turned wood vessels.
While these works integrated form and the woods natural beauty, works in the Post-Nuclear Series challenged this aesthetic by deconstructing the vessel. Purposely cutting into his bowls and lacing the fissures together with patinaed copper and other materials, the artist simultaneously explores ideas of repair and disrepair. This body of work initially shocked the collectors and curators who had been attracted to the classical beauty of the Vessel Series works, challenging the way he had previously been perceived as an artist. Of these works, Post-Nuclear ZO defies the seemingly sacred nature of the perfectly turned bowl form, while marrying painterly abstraction, form and concept, while Post-Nuclear 4 relates to the primitive impulse found in more recent works.
In some of the bowl and platter forms, the grain and pattern of the wood are boldly covered with paint, again courting criticism from those who came to know his work through the Vessel Series works. The Pele Series, named for the Hawaiian Goddess of the Volcano, features heavy swirls of dark acrylic paint on the exterior, suggestive of lava flow, and an interior of vivid reds, yellows and oranges, reflecting the molten lava caldera of an active volcano.  While the work obviously allows Kent to explore color, the heightened sense of form created by the dark exterior is more vital to the works. The artist has frequently referred to profile and silhouette in interviews and the Pele Series allows him to heighten the sense of line and form in the work. Recent explorations combine this work with ideas from the Post-Nuclear Series with stitching, holes, and tectonic mismatches, addresses both damage and rejuvenation.
Experiments in mass such as Gestalt allow Kent to further explore the potential of pattern in wood. The stacked work bears a relationship to Constantin Brancusi's Endless Column, yet rather than reaching for the heavens the work concerns the earth, with its ritual nature and weighty sense of stability.
The Guardians Series explores the vessel as sentinel, with shoulders rising above that of the viewer and mouths pointing to the heavens, unseen by mortals. These works harken back to the bottle forms Kent turned on the lathe from driftwood early in his career. The elongated necks of these vessels allowed the artist to experiment with the form, creating a sense that they were being pulled beyond their traditional threshold.
Untitled Wood Grain and Untitled Ublong bridge this body of work with the Apocalyptic Series - works that stand in stark contrast to his earlier explorations of seductive beauty. Consumed in flames, the wood distorts in much of his recent work in being burnt extensively to create texture and bring out the pattern of the wood grain. Further distressing the wood by working it with a wire brush, Kent creates chaotic ridges to explore the tactile as well as sculptural.
The Pele Series and Post-Nuclear Series veer toward Primitivism, while the Apocalyptic Series embraces it fully. The sculptures - stark and stripped away, are reduced to their bare essentials. If they represent an ending, they also speak the language of the beginnings of human expression, when images of Gods merged with the phallic in a direct and honest manner.
It is of interest to note that Kent lives and works in Hawaii, as his explorations - the colors of the sunset in his Vessel Series works, the charred surfaces of the Pele Series and the primitivism of the Apocalyptic Series - reflect the history and environment of the Hawaiian Islands. Yet, it is difficult to separate the impact of environment and intuition in the works of Ron Kent, as his is a world without rules or limitations, at once interior and physical. While working, he focuses upon the sensory and tactile aspects of the works in process, with the driving idea blending with the weight and smell of a work in the process.
"Many, if not most, of the sculptures I create started as an abstract idea that had to be transformed into solid physical reality just so I could see if the idea was really as appealing as I thought it would be," says Kent who, despite the beauty and harmonious blend of form and material in his bowl and vessel forms, has always been pulling and pushing at the forms, seeking just the right amount of tension.
"Even while I bask in the comfortable basic 'rightness' of the fundamental forms, I welcome the nagging discomfort of the 'stretched envelope' of the unexpected," Kent has said. In recent works, he explores this sense of tension, and even discomfort, much more directly.
Asteroid and Aftermath find the artist revisiting forms that he has pushed and pulled at repeatedly throughout his career, while exploring alternative materials.
"In 3-dimensional reality the two simplest forms are the sphere and the equilateral tetrahedron (the three-sided pyramid)," Kent says. "Does this fact explain my fascination with these forms? I don't know, but 'fascination' indeed is the right word, and I have revisited these forms again and again in a broad variety of media, scale, color, and texture."
Although fascinated, Kent is not satisfied in exploring the simplicity of these forms. Asteroid, a seemingly atypical work, is created in Polyurethane Foam and displayed on an organic reed framework. It's easy to believe that the artist sees potential in every material that he encounters.
Central to Aftermath are a group of trilons - forms that begin as an equilateral pyramid, but extend in one dimension. Still triangular in cross-section, the form reaches loftily toward the zenith, stretched out in the same manner as the artist's bottle forms. Yet, these trilons are scarcely recognizable, as they are devastated.
While the trilon form may represent a subconscious influence of the Trilon and Perisphere symbol of the 1939 New York World Fair from the artist's youth, his use of these forms in Aftermath is far from the Fair's optimistic view of "the world of tomorrow" and a "Dawn of a New Day". The work instead speaks of devastation, with five tall distressed trilons suggesting some future archeologist's model of a destroyed metropolis.
It's important to note that these bold new works explore what may be Ron Kent's principal media - light. By utilizing interference paints, the works explore a complex interplay of altered and reflected light, running across their surfaces and leaping out from the cracks and crevices.
Just as it was experimentation that brought Ron Kent critical acclaim, it is experimentation that frees him to follow his muse and explore an ever expanding and organically developing body of work.

The Silence of the Spirit


" If the Images were not, at the same time, an opening towards the transcendent, we would eventually suffocate in any culture, so big and admirable as we suppose it. From any spiritual creation stylistically and historically packaged, we can join the archetype. " Mircéa Eliade, Images and symbols.

Lover of the works of Rembrandt, Hammershoi and Wyeth, Richard T. Scott is not what we could call, an " artist of his time ". Whether you think he's inconvenient or irrelevant to the present day, one thing is sure: his work exceeds by far - both by les qualités plastiques and by the choice of its subjects - the formal expectations which compose the taste of our time. Having never given up to the sirens of malpractice and violence, his paintings open for us, instead, the doors of a world ô how much more spiritual and nuanced.

Whether it is in his portraits, his compositions, or either still in his interiors, Richard T. Scott always tries to produce, on his spectators, a certain effect of strangeness, or at least, something like a feeling of longing. That's why, maybe, his compositions are populated for the greater part with mirrors in which appear, not simply beings just like those who face us - but of real spectres having the function to destabilize our glance while giving the fourth dimension for us to see.

In his painting entitled "The Death of Uriah" for example, (God of Light) ", Richard T Scott built no less than three spaces overlapping each other: the first one is a glass door, revealing half of a scene in which a candlestick burns; in other one, the rest of this scene presenting an empty armchair; and finally, at the back, another window through which we see the silhouette of a man observing the whole composition.

By this intelligent arrangement, it is not only the story of Uriah (who king David ordered to death in order to cover up his vice of flesh) that this painter has succeeded in revealing, but more still, maybe, the atmosphere of lie and mourning in which his wife lived, having learnt of the death of her husband. A question, then, cannot but arise to those who will observe the scene attentively: who is the character lurking in the background? Would it be king David himself, contemplating the intimacy of the drama of which he is the author, or would it be the image of Uriah - innocent victim of an adultery that provoked his death?

If we cannot answer with certainty this question, nothing prevents us, on the other hand, from seeing in the empty armchair which is held in the background, Uriah's real absence, and in the candlestick being held in the foreground - the light of which reaches us only through the veil of a window - the masked guilt of king David consumed secretly by the fruits of his passion. In front of such a painting, blended with the greatest technical mastery, the intelligence of the composition, how could we not bow before  Richard T Scott's figurative genius - and to celebrate, in advance, its next compositions?

Frédéric Charles Baitinger

Marathon Sales for Chinese Works at Auction $94.8 Million

By Frederik Balfour

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A marathon of competitive bidding by collectors of Chinese artworks pushed a Hong Kong auction to more than three times its estimate.

Sotheby’s biggest Chinese fine-painting sale ended last night after almost 12 hours and 364 lots. Its total of HK$738.3 million ($94.8 million) including fees was the highest for the New York-based auction house in that art category. The presale estimate was HK$200 million at hammer prices.

Wealthy Chinese are keen to buy works by the nation’s top artists. Bidding was brisk for 36 pieces by 20th-century master Zhang Daqian. Other highly sought lots by Lin Fengmian and Qi Baishi sold at several times estimates. A second sale raised $HK2.1 million for the University of Oxford’s China Center.

“I said to them to raise money is great,” Kevin Ching, Sotheby’s Asia chief executive officer, commented on the Oxford sale in an interview. “You will need to do many more auctions.” More Chinese mainland parents are sending their children to England for education, he said.

Yesterday’s top-selling lot was Zhang’s 1961 color picture “Self Portrait in the Yellow Mountains.” The ink-and-water work fetched HK$46.6 million, nearly four times its high estimate of HK$12 million.

Enthusiastic bidding in the main saleroom -- where 16 lots sold for more than HK$10 million -- wasn’t repeated in the second salon for the charity event aiding the new HK$250 million center in Oxford, England. Just 15 lots sold of 37 offered, including porcelain, scrolls and embroidered robes.

Estimate Target

Excluding the Oxford sale, Sotheby’s has raised HK$1.6 billion in four days, including contemporary and 20th-century Asian art and wine. It is on its way to exceeding its HK$2.7 billion estimate for six days of sales.

The highlight of today’s auctions include rare Qing dynasty porcelains from the Meiyintang collection and a ring featuring a 9.27 carat pink diamond known as the Golconda Pink that carries a high estimate of $19 million. Watches and jewelry from the estate of Hong Kong singer and actress Anita Mui are also on sale today, with the final sale of watches tomorrow.

Buyer’s premium, the commission added to the hammer price of works sold, is 25 percent for the first HK$400,000, 20 percent for lots fetching as much as HK$8 million, and 12 percent above that. The wine premium is a flat 21 percent. Estimates reflect the hammer price, before premium.

Potential buyers who aren’t represented at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre sale can bid via Sotheby’s online bidding system.

--Editors: Mark Beech, Richard Vines.

To contact the reporter on this story: Frederik Balfour in Hong Kong at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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