Austin Art Breaks: In the Studio with Dan Sutherland

Art Alliance Austin’s Art Breaks give members an insight to artists’ studios in Austin. In the studio of Dan Sutherland is a collection of works which comment on art history alongside present theories of geometric abstraction, mid-century advertisement, graffiti, letter formation, and pictographs.


“Incremental not Executed”

The process of image making is an informative journey for Dan Sutherland, with a heavy background in art history his finished paintings feel fully rendered with finesse, comparing the process similarly to the father of modern art, Cezanne. Every mark has an impact on the final image even if it is infinite layers deep within the painting. In the studio, Sutherland becomes an editor and a constant tinkerer, exploring his pallet for colors that create tension on the surface, bringing cohesiveness to the overall composition.

While the surface is not planned but intuitive, so are the structures built for each work. By building his own surfaces on aluminum, copper, or wood panel with what he has on hand in the studio Sutherland begins his journey with a unique shape. He responds to the surface, color, and mark making when painting. While working on around twenty to thirty images at a time some have a longer lifespan in the studio than others. Sutherland may live with a painting for years and suddenly experience the urge to make an extreme change searching for its truest image.

Sutherlands scale ranges from small intimate works to the occasional wall sized painting. He enjoys the larger paintings as they remind him to explore the boundaries of mark making while working smaller provides more control over knowing the boundaries of the surface edge. These works capture the intent of purposeful ambiguity while aiding the viewer to have a personal connection that transcends the process of abstract image making.


As a painter I find that I can overwork painting, you talk about constantly editing your work do you find the same issue?

*Laughs* There are many types of artists, like Cezanne, he was a builder, layering his work while Matisse would be very precise in mark making, only touching the canvas a few definitive times before completion.

“Paint fast not Efficient”

Sutherland discussed some of his themes that inspired the work at his current exhibition, peat at Moody Gallery. By using nonsensical candid portraits of his son as references, Sutherland began playing with the combination of sentimentality of unconditional love with the rigidness of geometric abstraction. The abstractions act as portraits with obscured faces that evoke feelings through shape and color play.

Sutherlands’ other works are reminiscent of living spaces as shapes form a window like portal that transports the viewer inside or outside of the space. He had a piece from a previous show where he created geometric abstractions from still life flower arrangements where the viewer could compare them side by side. These pieces bring insight to the artists’ mind and the process of image making. On his summer trips to Italy with the UT students, Sutherland uses graphite to create geometric drawings inspired by the historic Italian countryside. By combining themes and techniques that do not belong together, find solace on the layered surfaces of his work.


Moody Gallery has a collection of his work since 2006, you can view more of his work and past exhibitions on Sutherlands’ personal artist website.

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