Flowers. Rock gardens. Invasive citrus seeds. Sonny Lipps paints these prosaic objects in a vividly colorful, modern style, his artistic philosophy in part developed twenty-plus years ago, inspired by working with Seattle muralist Keith Leaman and studies at Nashville’s Watkins Institute.
Lipps not only has a singular style, he has a unique approach. After prolific painting through 2002, he took a 12-year hiatus, picking up his craft again just two years ago.
Terming his style “playing with paint,” the artist makes each of his subjects into jewel-like images, with a goal to “create beauty as an end product.” With influences ranging from Monet and Van Gogh to Matisse, Miro, Willem de Kooning, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackson Pollock, the artist has formed unique and otherworldly works with a distinct focus on nature.
Lipps’ educational background is in Earth Science, and this seeps into the pores of his rather miraculous work, depicting abstract images that recall the flora and fauna of the world. He describes his technique and subject as “organic, primitive, macro and micro styling, punctuated with themes of nature, reproductive sexuality, and science fiction,” all conjoined in the process of natural design.
Working primarily in acrylic on canvas, Lipps’ color palette combines lush primary shades and softer hues, interconnected through sharp lines bent into fluid shapes. Lipps terms his work “conceptual design paintings,” but they are so much more than that, drawing us inward, into what could be cells under the microscope, budding flowers, voluptuously fertilized fruit. It is the stuff of life, of cellular division, fertilized plants, the seeds of a pearl. “Fanciful polymorphic fields of textures and rhythms interconnect,” the artist says of his work.
While Lipps’ work is abstract, it is also compellingly personal. Viewers are made to feel what he feels, see what he sees, as if he were holding our eyes to the lens of a microscope. And while that microscope provides startling and intimate detail, it also pulls us inside the microcosm, and spins us back out again into a colorfully-broadened universe.
His “Rock Garden” is a strong case in point. Rocks, plants – or perhaps alive, kinetic, connected cells – twine along a path. The pink rocks appear to be as alive as the golden flowers and purple and green plants along the connected, almost amoeba-like walkway. Visually stunning, the path looks sinuous and mysterious, leading the viewer along its curving grid.
“Graptoveria on Garden Wall” offers a similar experience. The beautiful plant perched on a wall reaches out with tentacle-like branches that beckon the viewer into a deeper space. What appear to be tiny, floating yellow petals could also be eyes. Long, lush green stems drip downward, as if into the core of the earth.
In “Arabesque,” a gorgeous mandala pattern takes the center of an incredibly detailed piece, with the delicate, almost feathered contours of a peacock feather, or a look into the center of a flower. Rich purples and green, vibrating pinks, and pale yellow form a color palette that sings with nature, but are wonderful and strange.
The diptych “Blue Glass Papaya” is divided by iron frames that could represent the frame of a window, through the blue glass of which, a papaya is positioned on a plate. Sounds fairly simple, but the piece buzzes with intensity, as if the seeds in the center of the fruit were bees.
Another diptych, “Bird and Fish,” feature stylized images of both these creatures, bodies elongated, scales, wings, eyes – each containing its own riveting, magnetic appeal.
Throughout Lipps’ work, there is a powerful energy, a potent life-force that throbs within each piece. It’s the color, the shapes, the detail, and a strong sense of connection, of a reaching-out and a drawing-in. Viewing this artist’s work is like jumping inside a living creation, one that shifts with each glance, drawing the eye both into the subject and to a wider vision, the compelling wonder of the world. It’s an extraordinary dichotomy, and one well worth witnessing.