Artist’s Statement

I have always been driven by three visual instincts: abstraction, atmosphere, and pattern.

There is often a hidden or “secondary” image that emerges when I look beneath the surface of a subject. A painting that is strongly based on a visual aesthetic — such as color, shape, or pattern — is processed by a different part of the mind than a composition made with great amounts of detail and narrative content. It’s that deeper part of the viewer’s mind I want to reach. I consider a painting most successful when the viewer is struck by a the visual aesthetic before they recognize the actual subject.

Color unity is also core instinct for me. If I cannot make all the colors in the painting feel as if they are bound together through a unifying color-light, then I will not consider the painting entirely successful. At first glance this unified color often appears to be achieved with a narrow range of colors; yet, closer inspection reveals subtle temperature and hue shifts within the core color, which add variation and complexity to the color tapestry.

Viewers often cite a serene or spiritual quality in my work. While I don’t make a conscious effort to instill “spirit” into the paintings, I do recognize that a painting always reflects some aspects of one’s interior life. I believe that the sense of serenity is formed, in part, as a perceptual response to atmospheric effects, unified light, and simplified shapes.

West of 50th Street, Ballard, oil on paper, 11 x 14.

My current series, Azure and Asphalt, turns to the urban landscape. It explores the abstract patterns formed by reflected light on the streets and rooftops at sunset. In these works I strike a delicate balance between simplification and detail: I have to include enough visual cues to make it clear to the viewer that it is an urban landscape, but few enough that it doesn’t distract from my primary interest, which are the patterns and the light.

apparaition-911-mitchell-albala

Mitchell Albala, Apparition, 2014, oil on canvas, 28 x 22. Available.

In 2014’s Acceptance series I applied my contemporary aesthetic to subjects of historical significance. In Apparition a cathedral-like structure is silhouetted against a glowing fog. It is the collapsed façade of the World Trade Center. In Pika Don, a magnificent cloud rises against a cerulean background. It is the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. By portraying these events with an outward beauty that belies their disturbing content, I set up a contradiction in the viewer’s mind that asks them to reconcile these two opposites. “It’s beauty to ease the horror, and horror to make the beauty unsettling.” (SeattleMet).