Reflections on Metal

Drew Galloway


by Brett Levine

Photography by Jerry Siegel

I am fascinated by the ordinary, rather than the extraordinary, in nature,” painter Drew Galloway says, laughing.  His new works, a series of paintings that explore the everyday nature of Birmingham’s Shades Creek, where he played as a child, and the streams of western Tennessee, where his family did the same many years ago, are marked by their quietness as much as their intimacy.

“My works grow from an affinity with a place,” he says. “I love to watch its difference from season to season.”  Galloway’s paintings are actually collaged metal, and the material brings its own qualities to each work.  “I’ve been fascinated by working with different materials for a long time,” he continues.  “The process of collecting materials I can paint on reinforces the idea that the works deal with many issues surrounding conservation, although that is not their primary focus.”

This focus is represented through a new series of large works, some as big as five by nine feet, such as “Mosaic in Gold,” that premiered recently at Nashville’s Rymer Gallery and are on view through February.  “These large-scale works, which include collaged metal triptychs, have what I term an oriental aesthetic but a Southern vernacular,”  Galloway says. His understanding of oriental painting, particularly the Japanese aesthetic, lends his work a quality that recalls both painted screens and woodblock prints.  “In many ways,” he says, “my new works are inspired by cyclorama paintings and many of the large-scale painterly installations that were common in 19th century France.”  Galloway’s goal, in part, was to immerse viewers in an experience of the paintings.

Galloway has also begun taking a new approach to his process.  “I have spent a lot of time recently speaking about my works as they develop, but only with artists whose works I particularly respect,” he says. Local artist Arthur Price has been instrumental in  these conversations.  “It is really valuable to be able to discuss works as they develop, which is something that I have never really done before,” Galloway says.

Also important is his understanding of the qualities that affect the subjects he paints.  “I have also begun discussing the science behind these works,” Galloway remarks.  “I have spent a great deal of time talking with Autumn Yatabe, a physical geography instructor at Samford, about the physics of water, about how it behaves, what its properties are, and how I have been depicting it.  What I learned was that I had an intuitive understanding of it, but my discussions have helped me understand the science.  And with painting, it is often the case that the more you understand the science, the more easily you can depict something, and then move beyond that depiction.”

Galloway also appreciates the impact that dialogues such as those with Price and Yatabe can have on the greater practice of painting.  “There is a beautiful poem by William Carlos Williams that I often think about when I work,” he says.  “It suggests that the more you know about the world, the richer an experience of it you can have.”  With this in mind, Galloway moves between personal observation, reading and research, lively discussions and a sustained studio practice.  “I am fortunate to be able to do something I love as my profession,” he says, laughing.  “What it means for me is that I am more able to relax, and make the works that please me, and be as attuned as I can to what I make.”  He takes this opportunity as a responsibility.  “I try to let my work evolve just as my subject matter does.  And I am always fascinated by how the nuances of the subject constantly affect how I make art.”

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