Golden Flower V, 2016, 54”x44"
Materials: acrylic, spray paint, collage on canvas
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, ground floor, H elevator lobby
This large painting is one in a series of similarly composed works that elaborate on the motif of the lotus, one of two species that we recognize as a water lily, native to most Asian countries and Australia. Many religions, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism, and also Jainism, Bahai, and Christianity, associate the lotus with particular aspects of stories about their deities. It is said of the Buddha, for example, that everywhere he stepped, lotus flowers bloomed. The lotus is also edible and all its parts – pips, petals, rhizomes, roots, and flowers – are used for healing in many cultures. It has distinctive forms of leaf, root, and seed pod, which are used decoratively around the world and which Lainard Bush in this work explores for both its formal and symbolic significance, in order to create art that affirms life.
Bush typically paints abstractly and with an underlying grid to organize the painting, which he also sees as part of a tradition of sacred geometry. A time-lapse video from 2014 captures his simple but lengthy process, layering many stages of paint applied with vigorous gesture (Bush’s own version of “action painting,” first made famous by Jackson Pollock), then re-positioning or altering the grid for the next layer. (That’s a lot of tape, as Bush acknowledges with a grin in his self-portrait on this page, relaxing on giant crumples of painted-over, discarded masking tape.) Also, the artist works with the canvas pinned directly to the wall, a technique that modern American painters pioneered to liberate themselves from the most obvious of Western painting traditions, the easel.
The grid in the Golden Flower series may not be obvious at first glance because Bush has used it as the base for a collage of varied lotus forms: leaves, flowers, sections of roots and rhizomes have been cut from similarly painted canvas, using a range of views and perspectives that flatten out the forms. Then the artist organizes these cutouts in a general grid pattern, rotating and flipping them horizontally and vertically, to create a sense of complexity and richness from the more limited number of forms. After he has glued (“collaged”) these to the base, he again paints, sometimes carefully with a small brush, between the collaged forms, and just as often over them with a larger brush or with spray paint, creating yet another layer The intense (“saturated”) colors and more limited use of gold create a shimmering effect that enhances the beholder’s sense of otherworldliness. What at first appears to be relatively flat reveals itself to be a dense environment in which you can sample color and form, appreciate the technical processes involved, and then become entranced by the layers of color and the space that they appear to create behind the canvas.
This painting/collage is also a fine example of some current art practices in which the artist seeks, rather than to create the illusion of something or someone in space and time, to focus instead on the materials and processes, calling attention to what the artist does rather than what the artist represents. Bush likens this approach to alchemy: “Process is central to the work. I combine the elemental, formal aspects of abstraction, which includes experimenting, inventing, exploring and exercising my powers of observation and analysis.”
Bush earned the Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) summa cum laude (“with high honors”) degree from Kent State University and the M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. He headed for the West Coast with the intention to work in the film industry and, after some time, had a realization that what he really wanted to do was to paint. Eventually he returned to the Cleveland area where he maintains a studio and exhibits frequently around Ohio and across the U.S., to critical acclaim.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Among the corporate and private collections holding Bush’s work are the Fisher College of Business at O.S.U., GlaxoSmithKline (Pittsburgh, Pa.), the National Re-Insurance Corporation (Glendale, Calif.), the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, Sapphire Creek Winery & Gardens (Chagrin Falls), and the Erie Insurance Group (Erie, Pa.). Paintings are also held in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Art Institute and the School of Art at Kent State University. His website offers multiple perspectives on his work and career.