Clouds and kisses 

Visual Arts

The earliest cave paintings were simple lines scored onto rock. Symbolic in meaning but at times literal, they were largely intended to communicate. If art still carries this intention, then its meaning is more complex. Abstract art can resemble those clean lines of the past, and yet its interpretation can reveal different meanings from one person to the next.
-Michal Lile’s ‘Sweet Surrender,’ part of he and Chris Tower’s exhibit ‘Object Paintings,’ on view at J. Martin Gallery, through Feb. 28.-

Indianapolis artists Michal Lile and Chris Tower, whose abstract paintings are on view at J. Martin Gallery (through Feb. 28), offer such an exercise. Both artists reveal a depth of expression and offer us the opportunity to interpret from our own unique vantage point.

Both Lile and Tower have created beautiful art, and yet each with a different sensibility. Lile’s abstract mixed media paintings are ethereal in their lightness of image. Exploring unconventional shapes for his canvases — which are, for the most part, blocks of wood — Lile often scores upon them with an outline of simple forms such as a chair, a series of X’s and O’s, an abstracted stairway. A title might suggest the imagery. “Perfect Cloudy Day,” for example, reveals clouds — but not obvious ones. Lile’s images are often paired in a diptych form with a wash of color that rises from the depths, emerging as if through layers of light.

Tower, by contrast, seems to draw his visual pictures from another place, one that is primordial instead of ethereal, but equally complex. In “Wait Until Dark,” for instance, the dominant form is of a beetle — or is it a heart with its many protruding ventricles? — attached to a green mass. Most of his other images are along these lines. If you look carefully, you can discern something recognizable — but this may not be the point. All of Tower’s images seem to float as if in a sea of color, and the combined use of paint and ink gives them a saturated tone.

As Lile himself explains, “The art is to be a physical manifestation of my own search for truth and beauty.” It would seem that for the viewer, the object is the same. Object Paintings by Michal Lile and Chris Tower is on view through Feb. 28 at J. Martin Gallery, 874 Virginia Ave. Call 916-2874 or visit for hours and information.

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