Working out of Studios 11 in Oakland’s Ironworks district, Terry Furry (pronounced like the english word “fury”), creates beautiful, graphic-realism oil paintings featuring faces, body parts, mythological gods, and the occasional random object.
His figurative paintings are composed of tightly placed sections of saturated pigment deliberately left unblended. By neighboring areas of distinct color Terry’s portraits look like flesh-toned oil spills, or, as he aptly puts it, “topographical.” These puddles of color sensuously map the contours of the human body, emphasizing light and shadow.
This unique style emerged from a bout of boredom. Having painted for most of his life, Terry eventually became disinterested with blending colors and wanted to focus on emphasizing “brighter highlights and deeper shadows.” Another contributing factor to his style transition was his appreciation for abstract art and a desire to incorporate some elements of abstraction into his work.
Contradictions are key to Terry’s subject matter. For the exhibition, This Swarthy Face, Terry is presenting two works, one of which features a very recognizable character from the TV and book series Game of Thrones. Titled Snow with Roses, Terry’s painting spotlights alleged bastard-child, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and beloved by many viewers: Jon Snow. Directly gazing at the viewer, Terry’s Jon Snow is painted shirtless and set against a background of delicate, pink roses. Gesturing to the piece drying on his easel, Terry explains his thought-process behind the imagery:
“[This is] a character who is portrayed [in the media] with all his strength, and I wanted to show [viewers] a more vulnerable position. So once again, it’s a contradiction. Here’s Jon Snow, this swarthy King of the North, and I wanted to paint his sensitive side, which he does have. That’s why I threw in the flower background you know? I thought the contradiction with that would work too. And everyone loves Jon Snow and, so, it’s just sort of a loving portrait of this character.”
The exhibition, This Swarthy Face, features work admiring man in his various states of beauty and masculinity as portrayed by a selection of gay, contemporary portraiture artists. Considering the pertinence of sexual-orientation to the show itself, I ask Terry if his identity as a gay man is relevant to the art he is creating. He responds:
“I think it is significant because I deal with masculinity a lot but not in terms of weightlifters and football players or stuff like that. Once again, the contradiction in masculinity of bringing in the strength and the weakness, and the vulnerability that we all have. So, there is this on-going theme of masculinity and the contradiction of what society expects and what it really is. Which is not necessarily what Wikipedia would say about masculinity, and it’s always changing which is remarkable… truly remarkable. So, yea, being a gay man, absolutely my process and my series is dealing with that.”
This Swarthy Face will be on view July 15 to August 27, 2016 with an opening reception on Friday, July 15 from 6pm to 10pm with all artists in attendance. Guests will enjoy food and drink, as well as live music by Death Cheetah and performance art at the opening.