The Tower: New Works by Brian Uhl
~ Shawn Daniell
Think punk and metal music. Think graffiti art. Think occult symbolism. Think comics. Think ink and paper. Meld all of those together and you’ve got Brian Uhl’s artwork, a study of precision with ink. The Tower: New Works by Brian Uhl, Static Age Gallery’s newest exhibit, is Uhl’s first solo show. The exhibit includes eighteen recently completed illustrations, T-shirt designs, and some multimedia prints. Among the pieces on display are images that were created for commissioned jobs for bands and businesses.
Static Age, located on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, is the brainchild of Southpaw Prints. The space focuses on showcasing established and emerging artists, as well as providing custom printing services for clients by way of posters, art prints, t-shirts, hoodies, album covers, CDs, LPs, and DVDs.
Uhl, otherwise known as Lair locally, received his art education at the Columbus College of Art & Design and also under the tutelage of underground cartoonist and local artist Justin Green. His meticulous attention to detail, in the way he puts pen to paper, is what drew me to his artwork. According to Uhl’s statement of intent, “Realistically, we all have methodologies and mine lie in the realm of study, practice, and execution, always making a point to repeat.” When you look at his work, you can see the dedication he pays to every line, dot, and inky gesture he puts upon the whiteness of the paper. Working mostly with pens, ink, and markers, his black and white illustrations are intricate, dark, beautiful, and disturbing. Uhl explores the modern world and all its ugliness by incorporating images of violence, humans, rats, bees, death, keys, and dismemberment. Always flowing through his work is symbolism associated with the occult, alchemy, emblem imagery, mythological creatures, and various other elements.
One piece that really spoke to me, due to the exquisite line details, is Hive Hearted. A human, you can’t really tell if it’s a man or a woman, has his chest ripped open to reveal a dripping bee hive located inside the body cavity. One side of his face is melting and oozing as he calmly looks away from the viewer. In the background, Uhl has blanketed the white space with hundreds of delicately rendered bees. I love the minute details of the bee swarms. In another piece titled Weak Will, robed figures float upward toward an opening in the roof of a cave while bees fly around them. The ceiling of the cavern and the edges of the hole are surrounded by sharp teeth and spikes. The floor of the cavern is littered with ruined pillars, tools, a raccoon, and a welcoming hole at the end of the cave. I can’t help sensing a feeling of futility as I watch these figures travel upward towards their doom.
I like the fact that the artist decided to stick with mostly black and white images. A couple of his images have splashes of color, but the ink on white paper is still the focus. I can’t help feeling that if the images would have been done in full color, the complexity of the line details would have been lost. I think the images are stronger because they lack color; it forces the eye to focus on the lines and the visual language Uhl has developed through the use of multiple symbols. Now, this artwork may not be for everyone. The imagery is dark and has blood and guts, something that I have no problem with because there is a mystical quality to Uhl’s work that I can’t help embracing.
The Tower is on display at Static Age through March 29. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information about the exhibit, Static Age, and Southpaw Prints, visit their website at HYPERLINK “http://staticageshop.tumblr.com/” http://staticageshop.tumblr.com. Admission is free.