The Shape of Things

Beyond the pale

Beyond the pale

Pen Pencil Paper by Joseph Pentheroudakis

At Shift through February 27

By Cynthia Hibbard

Just as he studied the shape of language in his career as linguist, Joseph Pentheroudakis draws to discover the forms that flow from his imagination, thorough his pencil or pen, and onto paper.

The seemingly precise, predominantly straight-edged and elegantly spare drawings in his Shift show Pen Pencil Paper represent the evolution of his commitment to abstract drawing over the last 10 years.

“I am not interested in representing anything out there, objects or ideas in my drawings,” he said. “I am more interested in inventing imagery that will have its own content, represent its own world.”

Pentheroudakis’ world is made up of a variety of quiet line work that is all at once subtle, formal, whimsical, architectural, patterned, sculptural—even archeological—and, to the careful observer, full of feeling.

Between the dark cliffs

Between the dark cliffs

His show image, “Between the dark cliffs,” well represents his ability to create simple yet densely evocative forms.  Based on the Susan Stewart poem “Wings,” the softly corrugated shape that he’s drawn appears almost to flutter mid-air.

“I’m a sucker for beauty,” Pentheroudakis said. “In addition to all the emotional content of a drawing, what I want to communicate most to the viewer is my obsession with beauty, order, symmetry, peace, calm, and the need for quiet introspection.”

Some of Pentheroudakis’ most recent work, as in “Lowrise,” (lightly shaded bars suspended in a soft, square field) or “Beyond the pale” (an undulating row of grey pipes) has quieted almost to a whisper.

Lowrise

Lowrise

But since he approaches each drawing as a new adventure, he strikes a variety of chords. In “Mural” he depicts a pulsating wall of randomly sized bricks.  In “Misconstrued,” he’s drawn whimsically connected sticks that almost seem to dance a jig.

“I don’t work programmatically,” he said.  “I let the drawing build up its own meaning as I work on it; that can be exhilarating, watching the process unfold.”

Pentheroudakis didn’t start his art career in drawing.  He was almost 15 years into printmaking when, through the study of foundational drawing with locally famed Margaret Davidson, he discovered that applying a mark-making instrument to paper was his true métier.

From there he’s never looked back with any longing at the wet mediums he’s eschewed.  “I realized that drawing really resonated with me,” he said.

That I might fly away

That I might fly away

At first he drew by dipping pen into ink, then he moved more into pencils (from the soft 2B to the hard, embossing 4H), and occasionally to the Micron pen.  His favorite pencil is the Staedtler Mars Lumograph. He hardly ever uses erasers, except as the occasional shading tool, preferring to build around errant lines.  He will corral his lines with a straight edge.

Even though Pentheroudakis’ minimalist work has been compared to the disciplined painting of Agnes Martin (who called herself an abstract expressionist), the close viewer will detect that his lines are not “perfect”—they have a voice all their own.

Where the ships of pinewood pass

Where the ships of pinewood pass