By Tina Lynch
For the past 20 years, Santa Monica has been an inspiration for artist Thomas Mercer Hartman. He has lived in Southern California since the 70s and in Santa Monica for over a decade. “There are places along the coast with beautiful light – Newport, Laguna and especially Santa Monica. I see contrasts and blended light here. It’s an influence on my work,” Hartman said. His Santa Monica light-filled studio is a warehouse space with16’ ceilings and six sandblasted skylights. “The studio energizes me,” the artist added. “I like being able to hang a number of works or only one in the studio. Rotating them over time allows me to study them.”
Much of his recent work is focused on exploring depth and light in his paintings. “Hanging work in the studio for a few weeks allows you time to assess options,” Hartman explained. “The background for Puddle Jumper was a rippled watery surface that is now barely visible. A gradient of yellow before over-painting blues and greens. The piece has a backlit quality with a deep background. The top surface almost looks like water on glass.”
Hartman is looking forward to “Explorations,” 14 of his recent paintings being exhibited at Upper West Restaurant in Santa Monica. He has been a fan of the restaurant for several years. “It’s special venue, a large open bar, high vaulted bow-truss ceiling, great light and an intimate quality,” Hartman said. The restaurant mounts an art show every three to four months and celebrates each opening with an artist reception.
Hartman recounted the evolution of another work in the exhibit. He created a few abstract studies prior to starting Over Somewhere. “The studies experimented with allowing a brighter background reveal itself between vertical columns of color. Scraping across the columns with additional color allowed for parts of the background to be revealed.” His work on the larger canvas started with painting a gradient of two colors that merge. Additional layers of gestural plaster and caulking created a working surface. The surface was then lightly sprayed with two colors of lacquer. Vertical ‘columns’ of black roofing compound mixed with paint were added. As the scheme emerged it began to form a landscape quality. He soon found that the columns became a torrent of trees. “Without painting from nature or using references I painted a memory – more of a feeling – from a place in my childhood.”
To find out more about the artwork of Thomas Mercer Hartman, visit his website at http://www.mercerprojects.com For additional information about IQ Magic’ his Santa Monica design firm, see http://www.iqmagic.net/
The opening reception for the artist will take place on Sunday March 12 from 4 pm. – 7 p.m. at Upper West Restaurant. Stop in to meet the artist and enjoy the paintings of Thomas Mercer Hartman. Upper West is located at 3321 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. Call the restaurant for info at 310.586.1111 or visit the website http://www.theupperwest.com/