Roanoke-based artist Gerry Bannan (American, born 1964) creates a feast for the eyes with his lushly sensuous new series of large scale drawings, hearkening back to the 16th and 17th century Northern European still life genre painting theme of Vanitas. Translated from the Latin word meaning vanity, hallmarks of this artistic genre include depicting symbols associated with death and the futility of earthly pleasures. The Taubman Museum of Art is honored to premiere Bannan’s new series Vanitas featuring nine drawings and two still life tableaus for the first time to the Roanoke community. Working exclusively with BIC Cristal black ballpoint pens on Mylar, Bannan creates extraordinary complex reminders via still life drawings of the impermanence of humanity and our obsession with beauty. Using collected objects that are often macabre, fragmented, and densely embellished, Bannan composes strange tableaus which then become the impetus for his drawings. Inspired stylistically by still life 17th century Dutch masters Pieter Claesz and Rachel Ruysch, as well as 16th century German master engraver Albrecht Dürer, Bannan’s drawings are fresh, contemporary twists on the age old theme that serves as a reminder to all of us of the fragile nature of our mortality through the use of symbols, many of which are found in nature. Bannan comments on his approach to his artistic practice, “I employ traditional and sometimes arcane memento mori such as bones and bells, vines and threads, shells and flowers to allude to the transient and cyclical nature of life, death and rebirth.” His narratives often unfold on a rendered bed of lush velvet fabric that intertwines with other symbolically rich elements in the composition which, according to Bannan, “tumble and twist their way across a writhing tableau of undulating surfaces and shifting perspectives.”
This new series of Mylar drawings is a departure for Bannan, who is most known for his paintings. Bannan discusses his journey to find the perfect artistic vehicle to create the new series, “After much exploration amid drawing options available, I came to find that the combination of such humble, disposable pens on the frosted surface of polyester film allows me to achieve a remarkably wide-tonal range within the confines of linear mark-making.” Using the commonplace and readily accessible medium of BIC ballpoint pens juxtaposed with the translucence material of Mylar, Bannan’s bravura “mark-making” creates dense baroque compositions that compel us to revel in his mastery as a raconteur of the medium.
Gerry Bannan received his BFA in Printmaking from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He is a long term Professor of Fine Arts at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville, Virginia. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the state of Virginia as well as in Atlanta, Georgia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Along with his wife, the artist Betsy Bannan, Gerry Bannan operates a fine art gallery and studio called BanG Studios in downtown Roanoke.
Gerry Bannan: Vanitas is curated by Amy G. Moorefield, Deputy Director of Exhibitions, Taubman Museum of Art. Exhibition framing provided by LinDor Arts of Roanoke, Linda and Dorsey Taylor, Owners. Sponsored in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, this exhibition will be on display October 11, 2014 – March 21, 2015 in the David R. and Susan S. Goode Gallery.
To learn more about the artist, please visit www.gerrybannan.com
Exhibition homepage and thumbnail image: Gerry Bannan, Requiem: Remember Not To Forget (detail), 2014, Ballpoint pen on Mylar, 20” x 72”, Courtesy of the Artist