Megan Wilson  
megawilson@aol.com
Writings > Darren Waterston
 
Darren Waterston
Haines Gallery
Through February 24

Working in an exquisitely refined technique reminiscent of the old masters, with references ranging from Hieronymous Bosch to Chinese scroll painters, Darren Waterston's paintings are redolent with sensual pleasure and delightful abundance. Entitled "Seven Heavens," his latest exhibition at Haines Gallery, is composed of seven large-scale (72"x48 and 60"x60") and four smaller (36"x24") works. The layout of the show itself compliments the lyrical quality of these paintings, providing a winsome ebb and flow. Orientalism has clearly informed Waterston's work. This was the Westerner's impression of the Far East that began in the 17th century pagodas, pigtails, dragons and mysterious women. However, there is more to his work than that. Waterston specializes in subtle and surprising juxtaposition that creates a unique reality filled with paradox. Birds, flowers, and swarms of insects are meticulously painted against black silhouettes of marshlands and pagodas, while nebulous webs drip and drape throughout. "Companionship" is a lush, scarlet-red netherworld of long, supple vines that sprout fluffy fronds while shadows of naked fairies sit and muse on tufts of terrain. In cool contrast, the chocolate brown and mint green palette of "Awakening" is filled with surprises that include tiny caterpillars crawling across a tangle of threads as sprigs of salmon-colored flowers and bubbles drift by. The strong erotic quality that pervades in these works is less subtle in some, as in "Rat and Phallus." In part, what we get in Waterston's work is that narrow space between known and unknown worlds that gets at a side of ourselves that is darker, more mischievous and playful than our everyday personas, a realm, more familiar to children than adults, where disbelief is entirely suspended. The world of Darren Waterston is exotic and strange, a never-never land where anything can and will happen.

Haines Gallery
49 Geary Street, fifth floor, San Francisco
Tues. - Fri. 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(415) 433-6879, www.hainesgallery.com (Megan Wilson)