Art isn’t about the final result, but rather the concept and the tools an artist uses to create the composition. Elizabethtown College’s visiting artist from September to November, James “Jay” Fuhrman, feels strongly about the communication between an artist and his instruments. His exhibit in the Lyet Gallery, entitled “Gestures of Time,” illustrates his connection with nature and spontaneous relationship with his materials.
“Each new thing that I create is the result of a dialogue between the idea, materials and tools I use,” Fuhrman said during his speech at the gallery opening on Sept. 28.
Fuhrman, a University of Pennsylvania graduate from 1965 and Temple University graduate with a master’s degree in education, has spent many hours teaching students to appreciate art with a fresh set of eyes, as well as creating his own pieces. With recent shows at Ursinus College and the Susquehanna Art Museum and an impressive exhibition record, Fuhrman finds inspiration from a variety of sources, including musical artists, iconic painters, Japanese calligraphy and Daoism. The tools he uses to create pieces, both of a painted and a sculptural medium, create a relationship between the connection he feels with his inspirations and his own hands. He is merely the vessel for his artistic voice, using the tools to direct him to his creations.
“Every time I pick up the brush, it’s a new experience,” Fuhrman said. “Art is an opportunity to learn more about the world both close to me and far away.”
Much of Fuhrman’s works on display are inspired by his “enso,” a symbol in Japanese calligraphy. The enso represents the artist’s true self, and is drawn by hand with a brush in one, spontaneous movement. This creates a “broken, open circle,” indicating an exposed space to symbolize a link between the artist and infinite harmony. Such gestural circles motivate Fuhrman to create his own enso, using a variety of mediums to achieve a unique approach to an ageless concept. Fuhrman uses a traditional ink and brush, but also utilizes his skills as a digital artist with Photoshop to create a personal link to the enso concept with digital photography. Fuhrman creates a contemporary enso with these photographs of “nightscapes, moon and sun reflections and the March 2012 solar flare” depicted by NASA. He also finds inspiration in the history behind the shapes made with ink and brush by Zen Buddhists of the past and how they have “evolved” in the present day.
Fuhrman studies the history of the enso form, as well as Chinese paintings of the 15th century, to connect better with past artists such as Li Cheng, a Chinese painter during the Sung Dynasty. Fuhrman finds the connection to be particularly strong between Cheng’s ink drawing “Buddhist Temple in Mountain” and his own pieces with enso symbols burned onto a wooden surface. The vertical inclines of Cheng’s inked mountains are “stacked and soft,” which is akin to the shapes in Fuhrman’s burnt pieces. In reference to Cheng’s work, Fuhrman said, “Artists from previous times open doors” for new artists, producing new opportunities for both young and old artists with a fresh vision for an older concept.
“I painted them with fire,” Fuhrman said about his torched pieces, touching the ridges and grooves that the flames created.
Fuhrman’s inspiration and artistic conversations with his materials are especially evident in those pieces, incorporating his skills with his instruments and experiences as an artist. Fuhrman uses his expressive skills to create a bond between his artistic history and personal observations. Feeling strongly about spaces found outdoors and the natural elements, Fuhrman attempts to physically use an element, such as fire, as a tool to intensify his vision for a particular enso shape. Fuhrman will also use water as an element for his sculptural gesture piece that will appear in Lake Placida in November as part of his time at Etown as a visiting artist. It will be a “sundial gnomon, unchanging, measuring the changes of times and seasons.”
“My art [is a way to] find out about my connection to the earth,” Fuhrman said. “I’m more interested in space than objects.”
Fuhrman’s landscape pieces, entitled “Mountain Bones,” and sculpture are representations of Fuhrman’s relationship with the “deep time of [the] geological process” and depict mountainous structures that are both delicate and strong with long parallel lines that create a vertical space that extends far beyond the paper and wood used to hold them. The wooden sculptures in the gallery are made from plywood and are seen as a “work in progress of idea, gesture and energy,” as the viewer can still spot the pencil marks used to create the structure, as well as the nails that hold up the pieces.
Fuhrman’s work from his show, “Gestures of Time,” will be on display until this November in the Lyet Gallery in Leffler Chapel and Performance Center.