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Chaucer Silverson - Moments of Insight

Painting by Chaucer Silverson

Those spidery thoughts that settle into the crevices of our dreams. 
The lingering spark burnishing the edge of our awareness.

With the guidance of painter Chaucer Silverson’s abstract series, finding where our genius crouches becomes an exercise of thought. More than mere meditation, his pieces trigger free reflections. They are pieces and parts of the thing that is bigger than ourselves and yet so tiny those pieces can disappear as completely as though exhaled.

His series, “Moments of Insight,” frames the instant before an idea forms. To get there, Silverson ushers us gently to the edge, then throws us head first into the world of abstractness… both in his images and in our own minds.

Abstraction has been a useful tool even by what we could call traditional artists dating back to Thomas Moran’s Moonlit Shipwreck at Sea. Here, the turn-of-the-century artist’s brushstrokes and emotional urgency swerve around our conditioned responses to what we’re looking at and, instead, draw you into the painting. Without the horizon line, you might not know it was the sea or even the sky.

“An aesthetic experience is a moment when everything around you becomes suddenly still and the great beauty of the world is allowed to flood in and fill your consciousness,” Silverson says. “Mystical experience is the most significant level of insight, adjusting our perspectives and creating a new worldview.”

Behind Silverson’s home—an old falcon aviary adapted to a studio, low and long with skylights and windows—the whole space is settled and drenched in light.

A work in mid-progress hangs on the wall: a tall oil painting, squares of blues set against a white background overlap and overlap again, shading each other and deliberating on what came before, what might come after. It’s a tangible depiction of how Silverson works on his pieces. Beneath the canvas, a pile of moving pads waits, a place for his knees when he is tending to the lower part of the painting. He gets in close and then moves back. Maybe he’ll sit on a small couch nearby or step out of the side door and consider the piece from a distance. Then he comes back to the piece, immersing himself in the nuances of each shade, each brushstroke.

Painting by Chaucer Silverson

He also uses a cardboard slate, the kind watercolorists favor to test how a certain brush will act. By dipping the brush in water he can test out the depth and feel of a brush and its movement. As the water evaporates, Silverson studies the resulting shape.

Pinned up next to the painting is a square note with a single-stroke circle, evoking Japanese calligraphy, handwritten with the word ‘Mystic.’

“When I work I put these wall notes up near the painting,” he says, pulling back from the piece. “There’s a space I enter when I’m painting, and there’s a space the viewer enters when he or she is engaged in the piece.”According to Silverson, the mind is more of a collector than a generator of ideas. His goal for his work is to encourage the mind as a receptor, to open the thought patterns up to new ways of thinking.


“Where does the content come from?” he asks, “From our consciousness? From the blood cells? Some people reach for religion, but there are bigger structures. We’re passing these ideas around and sharing things all the time.”

It’s no accident that our conversation has turned to so open-ended a subject. The influence of Silverson’s abstract art pries open concepts that don’t take kindly to complete sentences.

His work is more company than decoration. One piece called Moment—a 28” by 34” painting (shown, top), done in degrees of gray punctuated with red, orange and blue—feels like synapses igniting, confronting obstacles in one instant then migrating onward the next. Silverson’s interesting brushwork leads the eye around the piece so each visit with the painting is fresh, each conversation with the piece, provocative.

Painting by Chaucer Silverson

“Choosing to live with art, as an artist or a collector, is in itself an intentional act capable of measurable benefit,” Silverson says. “The importance of abstract art is to engage in abstract thought.”

Silverson always starts with his notebook, and there are dozens of them scattered around the studio.  “That’s where the solid idea comes from,” he says. “I place colors on the canvas according to the resonance I’m looking for at the end.”

Each color evokes emotions that vary from person to person. My purple is different than yours, and your yellow is perceptibly different than mine. For Silverson orange represents obstacles or solutions, a pathway where the incline yields comprehension. Blue prompts a smoothing feeling. But standing in front of Silverson’s abstract work you can think about those references for only a moment and then you’re compelled to just let go, to linger and not think.

“In order to solve a problem your mind needs a little shake,” he says. “If you’re stuck on a linear path you won’t figure it out. These paintings shake things up and allow you to step off that path, see a thing from a more macro perspective.”

In other words, they leave you staring and refocusing at the same time, unhooked.  -TBM

Published regionally and nationally, Michele Corriel has received a number of awards for her non-fiction as well as her poetry. Her second book, Weird Rocks, will be published in 2013.

Read More Magpie: Corriel's previous artist profile reintroduced local readers to painter Susan Burrows Dabney.

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