Review by Jim Kempton, former Editor and Publisher of Surfer Magazine and currently serves as the President of the California Surf Museum
Evolutionary Wavescape-In his initial frame of reference, surf played a less visual stance yet a more obvious tie: arcane names and notes in the paintings, and mixed media motifs. The surf connection has always been more referential than specific; there is a relatively subtle association between his work and the art of surfing itself.
Yet the tangential aspects of surfing in Nathan's art are in some ways the most interesting. He has some master influences (Van Gogh, Cezanne, Pollack) and their work illustrates how personal passion can imbue a work that paints no specific mention in the subject matter.
Gibbs' art and oceanic passion connect in the same visceral manner. Although there are pieces of work that incorporate waves, surfboards, line-ups and such, for the most part, surf insinuates itself into Gibbs' work in a veiled and yet vigorous linkage. Part of that connection is rooted in his locales. Over the years Gibbs has created art work in Fiji, Bora Bora, Moorea, Costa Rica, Mexico, and of course, California.
Correspondingly, his personal life walks the walk as well as talks the talk: Gibbs has been a prolific contributor to many water-related non-profits including the Surfrider Foundation, and the California Surf Museum, where his work has been exhibited as well as bequeathed for fundraising.
The latest incarnation of style is (as might be expected) a more intricate, complex approach and yet at the same time a more accessible emotional link. What I find most magnetic about
Nathan's work is the continuing exploration towards both his own potential and that of the world around him. This is an artist still in the hunt for what will define our relationship with our surf culture for future generations.
In/Sites: The Art of Nathan Paul Gibbs
by Ryan Longacre M.A.
Nathan Paul Gibbs' art is informed by both a deep respect for coastal environments and an abiding determination to protect the natural landscapes from which he draws much inspiration. Favoring vibrant color and strong tonal contrasts, Gibbs is as adept with lyrical, graceful brushwork as he is with vigorous, expressionistic gesture. Thus, his stylistic range is impressively broad.
Splattering, dripping, and irreverent use of color evoke the gestural intensity and compositional dynamism of abstract expressionism, while Gibbs' sculptural use of environmental offerings and found objects is reminiscent of Rauschenberg’s mixed-media combines from the late-1950s and early 1960s. And Gibbs’ simplified, silhouetted forms and flat swaths of color that lend a contemplative serenity to many of his landscape paintings display a controlled and contemporary style all his own. Gibbs' comfortable traversal of stylistic boundaries parallels the extraordinary manner in which the artist plays with narration in his paintings and mixed-mediacompositions. His juxtaposition of words and images elicit the fleeting nature of experience and memory, and the artist’s provocative pairings and use of symbolism allow Gibbs to exploit the ambiguity and subjectivity of meaning. Yet Gibbs is anything but cavalier about the messages he is trying to convey. Deciphering meaning from his work is much like identifying solutions for the environmental issues the artist is spotlighting; both require thoughtful and deliberate contemplation and both are well worth the endeavor. His book, Define Art and Surf is a visual journey rife with formal, expressive, and thematic impact.
Enviro-Surf and proclaimed “Earth’s Minister of Propaganda”, artist Nathan Paul Gibbs was born in Washington State on the Kitsap Peninsula, and raised from 13 on, in North East Florida where he picked up surfing. Since 1999 he lives and works on his art career in South Orange County. Nathan has created surf art work internationally in Fiji, Bora Bora, Moorea, Costa Rica, Mexico, Hawaii and Australia and has shown work in over 6 countries. His work has exhibited in Florida, Washington, Oregon, New York, Hawaii, South America and California. He has been in over 53 gallery exhibits and shows, and been featured in 29 web and print publications. He has created over 330 pieces of art, much of it environmentally based. Self taught, he is influenced by Pollock, Van Gough, Cezanne, and others.
In addition Nathan wrote and illustrated the acclaimed environmentally conscious story and art book, The Betrayal of Man. He also founded and designs the line for the underground surf clothing company Define Surf.
Nathan was awarded the 2007 1st Annual Earth Day: "GAIA" Environmental Award for his constant efforts in providing philanthropic support to water related charities. To date his contributions through his art to the Surfrider Foundation and Surf Aid international have raised over $30,000. In addition he has donated work to another 16 charities.
Taking his paintings to a deeper level, Nathan invokes participation from the viewer with a visual, emotional, and cognitive experience. He attempts to do more than just paint a beautiful wave, or a pretty sunset. It is about a memory, issue or environmental message.
Artist Statement -
My art revolves around, transcends and invokes a sense of wonder within an ocean-nurtured lifestyle. Through the exploration of water landscapes, peoples faces and rural images, I free the boundaries of their realistic attributes. I open the dream-like qualities of moments revisited, thoughts recognized, and landscapes explored.
There are many ways that I portray a subject, muted themes, political sarcasm, and disguised messages, developed through the application of painting, chemical, and textual techniques. Through the use of acrylic on panel I loosely apply the paint trying only to control the content, leaving the nature created waves of wood grain often exposed. The surf art, found object sculptures I create openly reinvent the energy of ocean waves and the way they move, form and break. I take an optimistic point of view trying to imagine surf everywhere and paying respect to the idea that wood gave us surfing.
Much of my work reveals the relationships between energy, water, life and emotion and how those create and destroy our natural world specifically the ocean. Using art to document the environmental struggles of the times, the works relay a message. Through surrealistic symbolism, Byzantine inspired iconography, and hidden images, I invoke participation from the viewer with a visual, emotional, and cognitive experience.