Sean Flood

July 31, 2013 7:00 am0 commentsViews: 317
Sean Flood in his studio Photo: Chris Engles

Sean Flood in his studio
Photo: Chris Engles

Drawing withPaint

by Gillian Drake       

In art-loving Provincetown, an enthusiastic crowd takes to the streets every Friday night to attend exhibition openings at the town’s many art galleries. It’s an opportunity to check out work by favorite artists as well as be introduced to work by newcomers to the town’s vibrant art scene. This coming Friday, we will be well rewarded with an exciting exhibition at the Kobalt Gallery of work by Boston artist Sean Flood, who is showing his work in Provincetown for the first time.

Flood makes powerful paintings of cityscapes that invite us to regard urban scenes with a renewed sense of appreciation. His work has its roots in the grit of the city rather than the didactic confines of an art school. For years he was a street artist, covering walls with graffiti—a controversial skill he’s segued into a solid career as a fine artist. “I did graffiti for years,” he says, “and I got in trouble a few times, so I stopped. But my artistic style is still fueled by graffiti, I still approach a painting like a bare wall, taking that same energy and applying it to the canvas.”

Indeed, his paintings seem to have been made in a creative frenzy, but he admits that each painting can take months to complete. “I approach my paintings in three-hour sessions, in a short burst of energy. I rely on that energy to develop each piece, I can’t force myself to paint for eight hours straight—I have to wait for it, for that surge of energy and inspiration, and then go with it, attack the surface.”

As far back as he can remember, Flood was always drawing, and had his first art show at the age of nine. “Whatever I do, in most of my paintings I’m drawing with paint,” he says. He paints landscapes, but they are of the man-made variety—the canyons of city streets, a panorama of rooftops; these are the views that inspire him. His work shows his obvious affection for urban life and lends a certain dignity to the least appealing aspects of a city—the back alleys of New York, jumbled buildings and neon signs in Boston, a rain-slicked street in Madrid, a row of garbage bins in Naples.

His attraction to buildings is obvious; he believes it’s because his father was a builder when he was growing up, that it’s in his blood. While he was in college he worked construction, and this experience has strongly influenced his work: “I enjoy the construction of a building, imagining building it from the foundation up. In the same way, I can build a painting from concept and sketch to the finished product, it’s kind of the same process.” He studied architecture at one point, but found it too structured for his temperament and kinesthetic style; then he studied illustration, but even that felt too constrained. It was when he started to study fine art at the Art Institute of Boston and was introduced to painting by Boston painter and teacher George Nick that he felt a fire ignite and realized he had found his true form of expression.

Flood combines his love of mark-making and abstraction to create quasi-representational images. He has a sure eye and an exquisite sense of composition, and stands at his easel, often perched on a rooftop, working away at the canvas vigorously with his left hand until complex images appear. Some are more abstract than others, as if the skeleton of a city skyscraper is emerging through fog; others are more structured, reminiscent of Piranesi’s prisons, images full of line and structure, depth and atmosphere.

Flood was raised in Plymouth, south of Boston, just 24 miles west of Provincetown as the seagull flies. A plain-spoken young man (when asked if he has an artist’s statement, he says, “I prefer to let my work speak for itself”), he has a classic Boston accent and a good sense of humor, sometimes labeling his paintings phonetically—“Pahkt Kahs” is the title of a painting of a Boston street.

Despite the proximity, he had never visited the town at the tip of Cape Cod until last year. “When I found out that it was an important artists’ colony, I realized it would be a great place to show my work. So I came here last summer and checked out every gallery and was most impressed with Kobalt Gallery; they have such an interesting collection of artists,” he explained.

Says Kobalt Gallery director Francine D’Olimpio, “Sean has done an amazing job of building a very impressive resume for himself, and has become a recognizable name in the Greater Boston art world. Over the past eight years Kobalt has held true to its contemporary roots, and we have built a significant client base that is largely urban. When I saw Sean’s work, aside from recognizing his technical skills and unique style, I felt very strongly that his work would appeal to our collectors at the gallery, many of whom are from metropolitan areas.”

Kobalt Gallery will exhibit work that Flood made in Provincetown this summer, along with images of Boston cityscapes. Flood admits that painting in Provincetown has been an interesting challenge for him. Currently his colors tend toward the monotone, yet in some of his earlier paintings his use of color is spectacular. “Color is a strange thing for me,” he admits. “I have been exploring the more earthy tones and gritty city colors, but occasionally I’ll add color and do a blue sky. That’s what I’d like to do in Provincetown—it will inspire me to explore a lighter palette.”

Flood has a studio in Abington on the South Shore, and his work has been included in dozens of shows including at the deCordova Museum, the Duxbury Art Complex Museum, and the Copley Society. He was juried into the Copley Society as a Member in 2011.

Sean Flood’s exhibition City to the Sea is on view August 2 – 13 at the Kobalt Gallery, 366 Commercial St., Provincetown. There will be an opening reception on Friday, August 2, at 7 p.m. For additional information call 508.487.1132  or visit kobaltgallery.com.