January 10, 2022 – February 18, 2022 all-day
The Courtroom Gallery @ Gettys
201 E Main St. Rock Hill
2nd floor


works by J Michael Simpson

JANUARY 10 — FEBRUARY 18, 2022

exhibit overview

Sequences of paintings that chronicle the sublime and incessant flow of a river metaphorically allude to the inevitable flux and flow of life. These works by J Michael Simpson were inspired by the adage ‘you can never step into the same river twice.’ 

exhibition statement


The inspiration for my work is nature in motion. The non-stop shaping and reshaping of a bank of clouds or the colliding torrents of a river tumbling down a mountain are phenomena that move me to make art. I feel impelled to look into these forms, to understand and delight in their infinite variety and dynamic patterns of form, color and line. Aided by my passion for digital video I can record, examine, and transform such fleeting moments into imagery for paintings, drawings and experimental videos. These works transcribe and re-implace a past moment in nature into an immediate presence.


During a graduate art history course at Illinois State University, I made a connection between my childhood experiences and the art theory associated with ‘the Sublime’. Those ideas gave artistic relevance to the awe and wonder I experienced playing on the banks of a river in Illinois. However, it was during a trip to the Colorado Rockies, that I discovered my life long path for exploring rivers as a suitable image for my work and interest in the Sublime. The Colorado river that convinced me was the Big Thompson. Its waters charged down the mountain slope leaping and surging with an energy and spirit I associated with the wonder and ferocity of the Sublime. Though awestruck by the power of that river and convinced it was a suitable image for my painting, its incessant movement offered a serious technical issue.

My artistic interest was to transcribe the sublime elements of the river into painterly representation that would offer a Sublime aesthetic experience. That required a careful study of the complexities of a river’s tumultuous details. Unfortunately, the roiling surface of any whitewater river is never still. But, with the use of film photography I learned how to transcribe the energy of the river with gesture marks of intense color onto large scale canvases evoking the energy of the river. However, solving that problem offered an unexpected content. The ancient Greek fragment (Heraclitus of Ephesus, about 535-475 BC) suggests that you can never step into the same waters twice. This idea seemed apparent in my work. To me, that idea made my paintings as much about the flux and flow of life as it was about the flux and flow of the river.  I intended the paintings, inspired by the Big Thompson and now by many other rivers, to be metaphors for those moments of choice and change that we experience in life: bridges between the forces of nature and the human spirit.


The Courtroom Gallery

Courtroom Gallery
Gettys Art Center
201 E Main Street
2nd Floor

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