The following review appeared in the March 22, 2004 issue of The Item in Sumter, SC
I am grateful to the Item for their permission to reprint it here.

Copyright (c) 2004 by The Item

Talbot Collages Sophisticated and Subtle
Special to the Item

If the word "collage" evokes pieces of gravel, string, torn paper and "stuff" glued to a surface, "Large Patrin," an exhibit by Jonathan Talbot in the University Gallery at the University of South Carolina Sumter, may change your mind. His ten pictures are sophisticated, with a patina that seems rich and glazed, like layers of decoupage.

Defining his technique as "painting with objects," Talbot combines many influences into works that strive to communicate through color, form and structure. The impact of painters such as Kandinsky, Klee, Braque and Picasso and concepts of abstract expressionism, cubism and Russian constructivism blend together in compositions that concentrate on assembling forms to stress three-dimensional impact, fusing objects so carefully that they become an integral part of the picture rather than separate, obvious entities. Talbot translates his experiences with Romany patrins (secret signs, such as bent twigs, ribbons or a handful of grass left by the gypsies to tell others in their group important information) into works that invite curiosity, offering multiple levels of response.

Paintings such as "Coos Bay Patrin" with its map, directions, and plumb line, and "Cuttyhunk Patrin No. 2" seem immediately connectable to concepts of direction and place. Even the soft, almost pastel tones, suggest comfortable response.

"Large Planetary Patrin" highlights Talbot's skill in creating levels of impact. On one level, the luminous turquoise sphere appears suspended in air, connected to the painting and yet beyond it spatially. The pale white orb labeled "Earth" appears attached to the surface by an arcing form that lifts the object slightly beyond the flat surface but far away from the floating ball. The intensity is increased by the strong force areas of blue-black that dominate the right hand side of the painting. In the background, the white was partly conceals the comments on astronomy and the Pythagorean Hypothesis,

Although Talbot prefers to let viewers "relate to his work on their own terms… having no specific agenda to impose on their relationship to the work," the underlying concept of a patrin as a sign or direction suggests deeper possibility in the emotional response. The viewer is offered the opportunity to revisit the Greek philosopher's theorem of the relationship of "weights and measures, musical theory and… the transmigration of souls with the harmony of the spheres."

"Large NASCI Patrin" reflects Talbot's interest in the constructivists, using the "typeface and part of the text… which appeared in a publication by Kurt Schwitters in 1924. "Nasci," Latin for "to be born," is like another Romany sign, encouraging further contemplation of the meaning left behind for a future traveler. Talbot's black rectangles appear seamless fixed to the surface; sepia and brown tones contrast with intensity of the white form, recalling old time photograph colors against the new and uncharted.

Bold shapes and vivid color expanse add to the layering of form, depth and angles in "Fandango." Even the title indicates potential shade of interpretation - "fandango" as a "lively Spanish dance in triple time, usually performed by a couple using castanets." Filled with visual rhythm, the painting moves across the canvas intersecting lines and focus, the subtle impact of collage almost imperceptible in technique but clearly apparent in the three-dimensional feeling. The bright red oval adds spark, almost like the beating click of a castanet adding another level of action to the music and dance.

Talbot's skill at amassing levels of visual activity in especially obvious in "Large Anarchist Patrin." The mottled face and interaction of aggressive forms in the upper corner are underscored by the "lino cut" in the lower section. Muted gold, yellow, ochre, brown, black, and a touch of red move the eye throughout the composition. Although objects superimpose the text, the dialogue produces messages of "destruction, relentless revolution… and the establishment."

At whatever level the viewer elects to pursue Talbot's collages, there are interesting messages, signs, snippets of meaning and a rewarding sense of action, depth and color.

"Large Patrin" by Jonathan Talbot will be on Exhibit in the University Gallery in the Anderson Library at the University of South Carolina Sumter through May 1. For more information, call 938-3858

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