OUAG hosts abstract art exhibit

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The art gallery will have abstract pieces on display.

A new Oakland University Art Gallery (OUAG) exhibition titled “The Berding Memorandum” displays the abstract work of Thomas Berding. It will be displayed until Nov. 20.

“The most challenging aspect of contemporary abstract painting is to make something that we never anticipated seeing before,” reads the gallery’s website. “Thomas Berding’s uniquely distinct paintings overcome this challenge with brio and inventiveness.”

Berding said the final exhibit pieces were chosen after much discussion with OUAG Director Dick Goody.

“In the end, we settled on focusing on paintings done over the last eight years, in that the paintings from this time period are in a dialogue with each other and yet also illuminate some shifts in the work,” Berding said.

Berding received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design.

His work has been displayed at countless venues, including The Painting Center in New York and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. His paintings have also been recognized with awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the NEA/Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Berding has always enjoyed drawing.

“While I only went to my first museum in my late teens, I loved both the activity of making and the internal dialogue and experience that looking at art engendered,” he said. “I really never considered pursuing anything else and followed what I was most passionate about.”

He was specifically attracted to the freedom of the abstract.

“Contemporary art explores nearly any subject you might think of, and there is such a range of ways an artist can work materially today,” he said. “It is a wildly plural field and allows one to fully explore the human condition — engaging the intellectual, emotive and aesthetic aspects of our experience in the most interpretive and compelling ways.”

Berding tried to emulate this in The Berding Memorandum.

“As for the works themselves, I hope they speak to our contemporary existence, yet also constitute their own experience,” he said. “I am a decidedly process-oriented artist who is interested in the interplay between abstraction and representation and in picturing a world that is in a chronic state of construction and disassembly.”

Contemporary art explores nearly any subject you might think of, and there is such a range of ways an artist can work materially today”

— Thomas Berding

He mentioned his most recent work was influenced by informational diagrams and flowcharts that are common in assembly manuals.

“As these sources move into the language of painting, the identifying cues of these beginnings are often challenged,” he said. “If a kind of wholeness or singularity appears in the canvas, what emerges is a tenuous peace within a field of remnants and surplus.”

Berding summarized his thought process.

“In total, the abstract impulse that drives my thinking is about hanging onto an edge of awareness that never settles into the wholly known and lives in a perpetual state between construction and deconstruction, representation and abstraction, addition and deletion,” he said. “For all its apparent boldness, it is actually a very fragile thing.”

The OUAG shows both regional and more-established international artists. Berding represents both, as he has exhibited his work all over the country and also teaches studio art at MSU.

“It seemed high time to put a lens on a really good abstract painter,” Goody said.

As a professor, Berding supports students in their artistic development.

“I aspire to help each student find how they connect with the field, to help them find their relationship to art and, at the same time, aid them in seeing how art ideas and experiences are all around us.”

The OUAG can be used as a space for contemplation and learning. Goody said a student’s world is often mediated by technology, like the screens of their phones.

“Art exists in a visceral universe,” Goody said,  “There is nothing between the viewer’s eyes, other than her or his intellectual and intuitive perception.”

As always, visits to the exhibit are free. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Visitors are also welcome to drop by during Meadow Brook Theatre performances up until the first intermission.