Abstracting the Lowcountry



Art school demands that artists develop a style, and from a marketing standpoint, I get it. Set yourself apart from the herd, or you might just starve. The push for that sometimes leaves artists struggling to pick a path or never truly finding their identity or medium or doing the exact opposite of what any of us want to do, throwing us in a box. Then there are those artists, who skip over the art school jam, and find themselves creating later in life, for passion more than career. Meet Jack Wilson.

Jack works out of his home studio, appropriately named Marsh Side Gallery, on Green Island. He sits right on the marsh, complete with moss draped live oaks, and he’s only a 15-minute boat ride to Fish Tales. I walked inside to see a massive inventory of paintings, covering every inch of his walls, stacked on tables, five canvases thick leaning up against the walls. He’s been busy.

“I used to do a painting a night. Since I retired, I take more time. Paint something for two minutes, go do something, come back by.”

Jack started painting about 5 years ago, but the seed was planted well before that. His background in the printing industry gave him a good feel for color and a photography hobby helped lay the foundation for his paintings, too.

Having grown up on Isle of Hope, the salt marsh runs through his veins. “I just love the marsh and being out on the river.” Jack sources inspiration right here in the Lowcountry, Wassaw Island, a favorite subject. His abstract marshscapes sing with color. Purple undertones have become a signature of sorts. He’s still working to capture the golden glow that lights up the marsh every night, right outside his studio doors.

“I can get down here, and two hours can be gone just like that.”

Jack’s pieces vary in size, but he prefers a larger canvas. You can tell painting is a physical process for him, long passes with a brush, heavily textured surfaces, and palette knife marks. His work is not to be mistaken for passive landscapes; it’s got an energy to it.

“I don’t paint off a palette. I paint straight out of the tube on a brush or palette knife.”

Look closely and you’ll find natural elements like palm tree bark or oyster shells embedded into the surface. He’ll surprise you with paper towels woven into one piece and gold leaf on the next. Some of his pieces are painted on canvas, while others on translucent acrylic or even rice paper.

The word abstract means to “extract or remove something.” Island Oaks, a 36”x36” painting clearly started off representational, but then Jack took steps to subtract from the surface. “I used to take water, put it in my hand, and throw it at a painting.” Now he blasts the surface with a water bottle. It’s fun to see the process of abstraction alive in his work and he’s learning to dance between the two worlds quite successfully. Collectors have certainly taken notice. Island Oaks sold the day after we met.

The beauty of being self-taught is the fearlessness that comes with experimentation. He has time to paint without pressure and it’s impossible to produce that much work and not develop a signature style. He mixes all sorts of unexpected elements into his work, but the pieces still read “Jack Wilson.”

You can view Jack’s work online at http://www.jwilsonfineart.com, but don’t cheat yourself. To see the full story in his work, you really must view it in person. He regularly participates in ArtNite, a quarterly show at the Arts on the Coast Gallery and the Annual Exhibit at Photopoint Gallery (June 23, 2022), both located in Richmond Hill. He will also be participating in the SLAM Art Festival and Isle of Hope Art and Music Fest later this year. Of course he’ll also open the doors to Marsh Side Gallery for a tour if you like.