by Julian Guthrie
Bay Area artist Terry St. John, who is 79 and paints out of his Oakland studio, has a new solo show at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco that brings together his decades of work and influences, from the Bay Area Figurative painters to his plein air studies, his female nudes and his move toward abstraction.
"This show is particularly exciting," said Lisa Dolby Chadwick, director of the Union Square gallery. "Terry's connection to the Bay Area Figurative School has always been a longtime love for me, but this is a culmination of everything he's done in the past."
The show, which opened July 10 and runs through Aug. 30, includes 16 paintings and eight ink drawings done by St. John over the last three years. Most were made in his Oakland studio, while a few were painted in Thailand, where he spends part of his year. The oil-on-canvas paintings range in size from 17 inches by 14 inches, to 60 inches by 48 inches.
St. John, who earned his MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, discovered his love of painting while a sociology major at UC Berkeley in the late 1950s.
St. John took lessons from a friend who was studying under Richard Diebenkorn at the California College of Arts and Crafts and once remarked, "Above all else, I just wanted to paint paintings. Painting somehow gave me an opening to the future and a sense of hope. It was salutary."
His new works are strong on the female form and characterized by vibrant colors, contrast, strong brush strokes and the play of light. The backgrounds are full of reductive shapes presented in oblique, parallel and perpendicular directions.
The exhibit carries special significance, Dolby Chadwick said, because St. John was gravely ill just over a year ago.
"He almost passed away from an infection he got in the hospital," Dolby Chadwick said. "I didn't think he was going to make it. When he came out, he did these beautiful paintings. I burst into tears when I saw them. The surface quality is sometimes 2 to 3 inches thick. And with his female forms, he does this drastic down light that creates a sculptural form. These paintings are incredible."
Terry St. John | Relaxed Woman, 2013 | Oil on canvas | 60 x 48 inches
If you go
Terry St. John: New Work: Through Aug. 30. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Dolby Chadwick Gallery, 210 Post St., S.F. (415) 956-3560.