While Cocke County, Tennessee, is not a hub of arts and culture, dapper Newport native Roger Gregg works hard to keep his artist flame alive in an area more known for its cock fighting and moonshine. “Art and culture springs up where it does,” says Gregg. “When I was 20, the cares of life kept pushing art to the back burner.” Nearly 25 years later, in 2010, “art just erupted in my life again. The culmination of a career that was money driven, and then a financial collapse, made me take inventory of what was important.” Roger Gregg’s art was first shown in Knoxville in 2011, thanks to Virgina Adams, formerly of Relix Variety Theater, and Jennifer P. Barnes of Gallery 133. “They were both very instrumental in my introduction to Knoxville and their help was invaluable,” says Gregg. Most recently, Gregg’s “The Formlove Exhibit” was on display at The Birdhouse in April.
“The Formlove Exhibit” includes 12 abstract paintings and one collage on wood panel. Most of the paintings are abstract apocalyptic/Old Testament themed watercolors on acid-free archival paper. The two largest paintings, Wind Through Trees and The Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah were painted on poster board. Gregg says his use of paper is “honestly a matter of economic necessity. I was so poor at the time, and am still struggling, but paper and watercolors were all I could afford, and my art would not wait.” Among the best of the paintings is Sermon on the Mount, where a large black hole dominates and appears to reverberate over a valley filled with faceless people. Silver Pine, acrylic on canvas, is a bright yet bleak large orb overshadowing fallen trees. Gregg says, “Sometimes a painting will evolve during its process. My work is never dependent upon an immediate image. I prefer to find the color of emotions in a measurement of time.” The wood panel collage, Hardwood & Lumber, Volunteer Street depicts an ancient Greek temple surrounded by burnt plastic, small tiles, yard stick pieces, and a sheet metal lightning bolt. Gregg says the lightning bolt was “cut with the large set of scissors on the work itself – a further connection in the interconnection of the work.”
“The Formlove Exhibit” takes its title from a term in “The Theorist Manifesto”, a lengthy art philosophy written by Gregg under the pen name Vivaldo. “I don’t claim that the thought and spirit of Theorism is mine alone, and that’s why I prefer to attribute it to a mythical person. The spirit of Theorism is across the world now. Art other than Theorist art is hyper fixative-and that includes formlove art-which constitutes the vast majority of visual, musical, and poetic art throughout history, but mainly pertaining to visual arts. Formlove stops at beauty which is the precursor to art,” says Gregg. “It’s not true love or true art; it’s like what love is to lust.”
“So why did I present an exhibit that’s not composed of Theorist art? Theorism is very hard to attain. It’s a separation of ego and an immersion into the human communal experience. According to “The Theorist Manifesto”, its principles include, but are not limited to, exceptional skill, themes of human experience, and art that seeks community and inspires communion with others. Theorism rejects many popular concepts of modern art, including commerce driven art, indiscriminate public display and performance, and art that is excessively modified by computer or other program/technology–thus separating the artist from the art. “The Theorist Manifesto” also suggests we consider the difference between art, decoration, entertainment, tribute, advertising, and pop iconography. Gregg says, “While Theorism is very hard to attain, the outlook of Theorism is…a change of perception, a way to see what was unseen, and an understanding of the processes of an artistic experience and, more importantly, how to produce it.”
Photos of Roger Gregg and Silver Pine by: Jeb Yonder
All other photos by: Roger Gregg
Copr: Debra Dylan, 2013