You’ve probably never thought what happens when the guy cleaning your motorbike drops paint everywhere. But nine years ago, that’s just what happened to Devin Reynolds while he was working a day job cleaning and making hot rods.
Lacquer splashed on metal that hadn’t been ground smooth and suddenly Reynolds saw a world of vivid, shining surfaces and holographic depths. The art he’s been creating since out of heat and metal is now up on the walls of Fulcrum Gallery, luring those who see it into its shifting shadows.
It’s a basic chemistry of reactions. Reynolds starts with a flat aluminum rectangle, into which he grinds shapes, patterns, designs. Then he splashes on lacquer or ink and watches the medium swirl its own path. Occasionally, he’ll light the whole thing on fire, etching the chemical pattern deeper into the metal with flame.
“I can draw with paints, or with the grinder,” Reynolds explains of his process.
The result is stunning. Many of the works scream with the kind of metallic greens and blues you’d expect on a hot rod, or maybe a New Age acrylic at a street fair. Some are as subtle as a sumi-e (ink painting), with the same flowing unpredictability. “The Pipe” captures a giant Hawaiian wave as it curls, the cobalt and aqua splashing into space like Hokusai’s famous woodblock tsunami print. “Drain” has planetary rings of iridescent orange and vermillion that shift eerily across the metal’s surface as you walk by; “Yellow Ruin” backs mysteriously shifting dark shadows with complicated thickets of golden-green light, like a forest made of luminescence instead of leaves.
Amid the single works are groups of four – two smaller rectangles set just in front of two larger, teasing the eye’s perspective. The cold-gray “Smolder” is virtually unpainted, with flame-painted swirls floating across ground tendril etchings like a singed river flowing through smoke.
“In a Drop” makes vibrant use of the motor-paint’s high sheen: an oil-spill smear of metal dives through neon-green into a splash of concentric textured circles. Others are still as a tropical lagoon, violent as a thunderstorm, resplendent as a purple-and-hot-pink cosmos, with gold blurs floating like nebulae.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing this medium does is offer you illusions. When the paint layers onto the ground patterns at just the right angle it creates a three-dimensional holographic image that plays on the wall, like the snaking chains hovering at the back of “Blue Ruin” – enough to make you walk around the metal plate to see what’s behind it.
It’s obvious that even after nine years of exploration Reynolds is only at the beginning of discovering what this combination of ink, metal and heat can do – and how, like encaustics and other hot media, how the material forges its own artistic direction.
Reynolds sums it up: “It surprises me every time I do a piece.”
What: Caustic Compositions – New Work by Devin Reynolds
Where: Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma
When: noon-6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and by appointment through Feb. 15
Cost: freethenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/arts