“Apparently it was never a ball I was interested in so much as an experience of roundness itself, or emptiness, or black."
For over thirty years, John Gibson has focused exclusively on the shape of the ball, using it as a tool for exploring the space of painting. Often decorated with a minimal pattern to emphasize its illusory curvature in space, he uses his subject to comment on the elusive goal of depicting life in a way that captures and approximates, but never quite aligns with, three-dimensional reality. The tension between flat and dimensional space has always been central to painting; in a sense, the history of painting is the story of its engagement with this concept, from the invention of perspective to the breakthrough of cubism, which fused the two, to the flattening of the picture plane in modern abstract painting. Gibson’s patterned spheres allude to this history while at the same time retaining their integrity as basic objects—an interplay of opposing forces: flatness and roundness, lightness and darkness, simplicity and complexity.
Sue Miller, best-selling American novelist and owner of a Gibson painting, noted that “there’s an enormous tension, in this seemingly light-hearted painting, and the mind doesn’t tire of trying to work through it somehow, revising it endlessly, imaginatively, attempting to resolve the conundrum John has created—al the while relishing the close observation which that attempt demands.” The resulting paintings seem to contain a powerful kind of potential energy, the spheres on the verge of rolling out of the composition and into reality. At the same time, they’re silent and still, restrained by the materiality of paint, the flatness of canvas. With subtly rich colors and finely balanced compositions, Gibson’s paintings project intelligence, grace, and a hint of mystery.
Gibson’s work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design, among other institutions. Born in 1958, he earned his MFA from Yale and has taught at Smith College and the Rhode Island School of Design. He lives and works in Northampton, Massachusetts.