George Billis Gallery is pleased to present the gallery’s second solo exhibition of watercolor paintings by Paul Pitsker. The exhibition, What Lies Within, features the artist’s recent work and continues through June 23rd.

Pitsker writes of his work, “My watercolor paintings combine still life with narrative elements intertwining themes of confinement and looming disaster. They are mock elegies that rely on word play, dark humor, and the intrinsic beauty of their subjects to relieve the tension of unexpected encounters and of contrived existential dramas. My interest is in 'delicate subjects,' a term meant not just literally but also figuratively, as in, for example, a contemplation of the fragility of life, or of the inevitability of darkness—ideas we avoid confronting on a more than occasional basis. My goal is to evoke an atmosphere of disquiet and a sense that the answers to our most urgent questions might be hidden in plain sight and yet remain unreachable.

Watercolor has a reputation for being unforgiving because the paint is transparent and the paper is absorbent, so marks made at any point during the process are likely to be visible in the final result. Thus each watercolor painting is a kind of performance, like a music recital where you can’t take back the sounds you make—you can only add to them. One of my goals with the medium has been to make paintings that don’t look like traditional watercolors. To this end, I use fine-grained staining pigments, smooth paper, and an intense velvety black for my backgrounds, and I avoid splashing around with wet in wet effects on a large scale. Those effects are there, under the radar, along with the paint blooms and drying lines and other indelible artifacts of the process, but you must look closely to see them. From a distance the results may appear almost photographic, but a closer inspection reveals the tiny brush marks, scratch-outs, pencil lines, and other artifacts of an obsessive and intensely personal painting process.

Paul Pitsker specializes in watercolor paintings characterized by a near-focus viewpoint, a mock-elegiac tone, and ever-present dark humor. Using handwritten scraps of paper and everyday objects as props, he creates narrative dilemmas and staged existential dramas involving local urban insects and birds and other small creatures, which he renders in transparent watercolor with minute precision, clarity, and sympathy.