Darren Orange is not a traditional artist. With a focus on non-representational abstract, he uses materials like his hands and pallet knives rather than paint brushes and scrapers.
“I don’t wait for inspiration. I work through the process to find inspiration,” he said. “The best works come when I take a big risk.”
Orange’s first solo show at Astoria’s Imogen Gallery, “Under the Surface,” runs through Monday, July 3.
His work has been exhibited in Graeter Gallery, Peoples Gallery and Launch Pad Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in Brooklyn, New York, Shidoni Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico and elsewhere.
His studio is off Tongue Point Road next to storage units, boat builders and fabrication businesses.
“I like that blue-collar work atmosphere,” he said. “I think that’s the way I value my work.”
Orange works on a minimum of a dozen paintings at one time. “It’s like playing 20 games of chess at the same time,” he said.
When painting on a fresh canvas, Orange is never sure how the finished product will look. After making progress, he might end up turning the painting on its side.
“I have less control on how they’re going to turn out than some artists do with their work,” he said. “Some artists have a definitive goal. Mine is a value of completion.”
Words have power, Orange said; therefore, most of his paintings are untitled.
“I would rather have an ‘untitled’ than the wrong title. The titles can lead viewers into the wrong direction. I don’t want to steer viewers into a specific place.”
Orange began drawing and painting at 8 years old. He grew up in Yakima, Washington, on a fruit orchard, which he said is similar to creating art: “You have problems, and you have to come up with creative solutions.”
After studying art history and studio painting at Western Washington University, Orange moved to Astoria in 2000.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Coast Weekend: How would you describe your art?
Darren Orange: I think it is a process. I don’t generally have an end result I’m seeking. It’s more of an intuitive feeling when I’ve hit the mark and it’s done. The process is similar to abstract expressionism in that it’s action painting. I stand up. Sometimes the painting is on the floor and I’m over the top of it. It’s somewhere between a dance and a boxing match.
CW: What drives you to be an artist?
DO: The drive is like a bad habit. It’s a chemical addiction. The rush that you get when you hit a mark that you resonate with gives you a high that a chemical would.
CW: What inspires your art?
DO: What inspires me is my surroundings, my natural environment I live in, and music. Also seeing someone making it in whatever field they’re in. Them chasing it (success) inspires me.
CW: How long do you typically spend on a piece?
DO: Average time frame for one painting can be a few weeks to two or three months. Or the rare occasion of 15 years.
CW: How long did it take you to finish the “Under the Surface” collection?
DO: I started in December and worked until last month, so five or six months. There’s about 30 works in this show.
CW: How do you feel about having your first solo show at Imogen Gallery?
DO: I’m really excited to work with Teri (Sund, owner of Imogen). We’ve already had a great relationship outside of this gallery. We’ve known each other for 17 years. She’s already done amazing things for my work before the show started, so I feel really strongly about it.
CW: What are your goals with your art?
DO: I’d like to see the work given space to be and seen by the public. Some nice critical essay in some point in time would be nice. Maybe in some notable collections. I’ve been in some notable collections, but more would be nice. That’d be a nice goal.
CW: Do you have any projects planned?
DO: I don’t have anything planned right now. I’ll have some work in an international magazine in September. I’m always applying to competitions. I’m hoping to find more time in the studio to paint and create a 3-D sculpture. I’ve done some sculptures before. I want to rekindle that fire, that relationship.