David Syre’s Black Drawings: The Inner Light

Artist Profile

A wall with pictures on it

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Installation view, David Syre: The Black Drawings, SARAHCROWN New York, 2023.

The creative process is inexplicable. It doesn’t require anything but what the creator needs or chooses to use, and there are no guidelines as to how it works: Tolstoy felt he had to write “each day without fail.” Robert Rauschenberg often had The Young and the Restless on television at his studio. Virginia Woolf used to walk miles and miles. There is no telling what will ignite the process, but like a flash of lightning or fireworks in the night sky, it contains such a force that with the right conditions, generates sublime beauty. American outsider artist David Syre found this force when he was only a child in his Pacific Northwestern family home: The intuitive act of pushing crayons on paper on the floor of his grandmother’s kitchen remained in the heart of his practice. Syre’s art evolved and transformed in time, but the pastels remained––in the end, it turned into a persistent, continuing series of over 4500 pastel drawings on black paper. 40 of these drawings are now hanging on the walls of SARAHCROWN New York, a young contemporary gallery in Tribeca, and at the gallery’s booth at the Outsider Art Fair, gathered for two concurrent solo exhibitions titled David Syre: The Black Drawings.

Abstraction lies within the foundation of Syre’s black drawings in the swift lines and gestural flow that inform his compositions. The vibrant colors and simple, eloquent forms that emanate from the paper’s surface withhold hints of extraordinary universes, creatures, and figures. Galaxies emerge, instants from subconscious and distant lands manifest in Syre’s lines as symbols, fragments, and outlines of imaginary places and objects. Sometimes a broad, semi-transparent stroke of blue pastel meets white, red, and blue circles while lines surround them, and for an instant a magical creature with a thousand eyes peek out of All Eyes on Deck (2015). The instinctive gestures that compose a multi-layered, gradient, organic shape interlaced with symbols and grids become a mythical land in Thinking Island (2022).

Syre’s own life experiences and affectations seep through the drawings alongside the unearthly. Nature, his greatest influence, is a pervading presence throughout the series: In thoughtful use of color and references to the land and his native Pacific Northwestern region and its history, rivers froth and the sun shines, guiding the viewer through the exhibition. A series of work titles, befittingly, invites us to “follow the sun” for many things: renewal, pink roses, or to find a Norway fish god. Ancient, Indigenous, and spiritual cultures and practices are embodied in other visual elements such as totems and tribal patterns, adding to Syre’s compelling, yet simple imagery. Though only six red dots and one curved line forms A Thought (2018), they feel at once instantaneous and deliberate. The viewer follows the white line in the blackness of the paper like one follows a thought, and new ones emerge from Syre’s transcendent visual language. Much like an afterimage of a lightning, and perhaps like the creative process itself, Syre’s visions shine in the darkness not to wane but linger. We might as well follow the sun.

David Syre, All Eyes on Deck, 2015, Prisma Crayon on paper, 13 x 10 in.
David Syre, A Thought, 2018, Prisma Crayon on paper, 11 x 8 in.
David Syre, I Want To Be Fancy, 2018, Prisma Crayon on paper, 11 x 7.5 in.
David Syre, Banjo Wanta Be, 2019, Prisma Crayon on paper, 12 x 9 in.

Photo Courtesy of SARAHCROWN New York

Artist bio: David Syre is an American outsider artist based in Tucson, AZ and Everson, WA. Syre produces large-scale acrylic paintings, drawings, watercolors, and monumental art installations inspired by the subconscious, nature, and his travels. All his life, art-making was a salvation and an urge to fulfill, and he found inspiration in spirituality that affected his life’s journey, both artistically and personally. Gaining recognition later in life, Syre has exhibited in various galleries, art fairs, and public spaces in recent years in the US, Canada, Europe and South America.

Writer bio: Flora Leigh is a New York and Toronto based writer and painter.

Gallery and exhibition info: SARAHCROWN New York represents contemporary emerging and established International artists and specializes in Postwar & Contemporary Art. The gallery’s focus is scouting new talent, disseminating site-specific projects, and a critical discourse around the curatorial practice. David Syre: The Black Drawings will stay on view at SARAHCROWN gallery at 373 Broadway, New York, until April 1, 2023. A concurrent representation of works from the same series is also on view at the Outsider Art Fair, March 2–5, 2023.

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