Chris Gallagher’s latest oil paintings reflect his longtime interest in the cosmos and scientific observation of distant phenomena. For years, Gallagher has painted parallel bands of alternating color and width that stream, arc and pulse across his canvases. The softly brushed lines waver and vibrate while appearing to glow with an inner light. The luminous streaks alternately suggest the rapid flow of digital information, the expansion of the invisible forces of physics, or the mysterious beauty of celestial objects.
For his current exhibition, Gallagher has adopted a circular format to reinforce the astronomical associations and to alter the viewer’s perception of space. While a few tondos appeared with the rectangular paintings in his previous show, round works now predominate. They range in size from eighteen inches to six feet, with concave or convex ribbons of vibrant color curving across their circular surfaces. Gallagher begins each painting with brushstrokes through the painting’s equator and works towards the poles, intuitively varying colors and band widths. The final work creates the illusion of a discrete, slowly rotating sphere. Gallagher’s brushwork near the edges of the canvas implies the unseen or dark side of a planetary object. This apparent sphere is buoyant and untethered, as if freed from gravity. The sense of movement and play is enhanced by the fact that the painting can be displayed in any orientation. When grouped together, the tondos of different sizes suggest phenomena ranging in scale from the interstellar firmament to an energized dance of small particles.
The exhibition also includes small paintings framed under glass, depicting atmospheric, dimly glowing discs isolated on a black field. The black extends to the interior of the deep frames, creating a sense of remoteness and mystery. In these works, Gallagher was inspired by the minute amount of light collected from deep space by astronomical instruments. As the viewer peers into depth of the frame, the sense of scale vacillates; the vaporous, loosely painted orbs may be seen as lonely, exotic planets or as a microscopic discovery. The overwhelming feeling is of great distance from the everyday world.