Piece of Work: David Wallis

“I am going in a new direction. It is fresh and new and not what I normally do… And taking a risk in life is important to do.”

I am going in a new direction. It is fresh and new and not what I normally do… And taking a risk in life is important to do.

The oil painting is titled All’s Fair and for painter David Wallis, who will debut new work at the Granary Gallery this month alongside fellow artist Ken Vincent and photographer Alison Shaw, it marks a departure in scope and tone.

“This body of work is about trying to simplify, and part of that simplification is working first in gray tones. It forces me to limit my palette, and therefore my decision about what grade of gray to use is very important. A lot of artists rely solely on color and don’t realize that value and color are two different things. It’s why you start out in art school by drawing with charcoal on a paper bag.”

David Wallis, All’s Fair, oil on panel, 48 x 48 inches, 2017.

The piece is four feet square. “It’s the largest piece I’ve ever done for public consumption and I loved it. And part of that was working more without a brush. I was working literally with spatulas, scrappers really, like when an auto body shop works with Bondo, and it’s been a blast. I can work large strokes with my hands and I’ve never used so much oil in my life. It’s great. It’s such a liberating feeling.

“I chose the subject because they’re carnival bottles and they have a wonderful texture to them and they’re neutral in color, which helped me in my quest to simplify. They’re very simple shapes, one color, and it forced me back to the basics, which I needed.

“I was plagued by the need to fine-tune everything, to noodle, to give the viewer every little detail. But I’ve grown to appreciate giving a fair amount to the viewer. We have enough reality with things like Instagram and Snapchat. Eliminating all the detail and allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks was important to me. 

“I’m at a point in my life where I want to take chances and it’s not about what’s going to sell and what’s not. I need to fill stuff inside of me so I can go forward. It’s a risk because I don’t know if anyone will acquire these, but it feels right to me.”

Last year Wallis, who has lived on the Island since 1992, began sharing studio space with Vincent in the former West Tisbury police station on Mill Pond. 

“I look forward to going there and I haven’t had that feeling for a long time,” he said. “It’s a place of joy.”