Painter John Waguespack channels free spirit 

John Waguespack’s 48-inch painting “Koi” is among the works on view in “Channeling the Dionysian” at Rocha Art. - COURTESY JOHN WAGUESPACK/ROCHA ART
  • John Waguespack’s 48-inch painting “Koi” is among the works on view in “Channeling the Dionysian” at Rocha Art.
In creating the paintings for his new solo show at Rocha Art gallery, San Francisco artist John Waguespack took a new tack: He cleared his consciousness and connected to his spirit.

"It's about trusting the inner gut, and getting over yourself and your thoughts," he says, describing why he named the show "Channeling the Dionsysian," based on the ancient Greek concept exploring the dichotomy between the god Apollo, who represents order, and Dionysus, who represents chaos.

It wasn't an easy process: "To reach that Zen-like state of clearing the mind, to get to that space, it's very hard to do," he says, adding that his goal was to tap into "organic, creative, unfiltered expression" – something he finds missing from a lot of contemporary art.

The 25 colorful paintings in the show - all in ink, oil or acrylic (or combinations of those materials ) on large panels of birch wood - beautifully represent his evolution over a period of six months of intense work, sometimes as much as 18 hours a day, six days a week.

On the left side of the gallery are the more Apollonian pieces he worked on at the beginning of his process. They're straight, linear and inspired by real things, such as a calla lily, a blue hydrangea, or tulips.

On the right side are the more Dionysian paintings he made without a plan, even using forces of nature. Often working on many pieces at the same time in his Potrero Hill studio, he put wood panels on the floor, poured water, oil or acrylic on them, let the wind blow the liquid around, and then let the pieces bake in the sun. The layering process took as long as three months, he says, adding, "The more patient you are, the more beautiful it becomes."

To make the luminous 48-inch oil painting called "Koi," which indeed resembles a koi pond, he randomly placed found round objects such as CDs, bottle caps and washers on the panel, and let the layered colors absorb around the shapes.

He also emphasizes in nature by using color in a way that emphasizes and exposes the grain of the wood.

Pleased with how his paintings are varied - ("I've had people say, 'How many artists are in here?'" while looking at the show, he says) - Waguespack also feels positive about the proliferation of visual imagery and technology today: "There is so much amazing stuff all around. Every day I see so much beauty in the world," he says.


Channeling the Dionysian

Where: Rocha Art, 466 Brannan St., S.F.

When: 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; closes May 15

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 533-5758,

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Leslie Katz

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