by MICK LLOYD-OWEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ike so many things that require explanation, the term en plein air is French. It means "in the open air," and refers particularly to the act of painting outside, on location. This trend developed in 19th -century Europe, and was popular among the Impressionists, who believed that the essence of any outdoor scene was light-play, and that there was no substitute for capturing the experience of outdoor light directly -- by being there.

Regarded as a "fixture among Spokane painters" by Tinman Gallery owner Sue Bradley, Gordon Wilson is one of few painters in this area who works en plein air. The pieces in his new series, "Plein Air Down Under," were completed during a three-week stay in Australia this summer, and will be on display at Tinman through Oct. 28. Miscellaneous paintings from France and Germany, still-life pieces and portraits from Wilson's portfolio will also be on display.

Wilson has been an art professor at Whitworth College since 1976 and has exhibited his work in galleries all over the country.

"Plein air painting is not a style or technique so much as it is an experience," Wilson writes. Facing the elements brush in hand, with canvas upon a box-easel, is challenging. Wind, rain, temperature, insects and interruptions by passersby do not necessarily make a painting better. "However," he writes, "for those who value the experience of observing firsthand and incorporating that unique experience of place into the act of painting, there is no substitute."

Wilson's paintings do indeed invoke a strong sense of mood and place. Forsaking realism derived from painstaking definition, Wilson uses broad and bold strokes of the brush and vivid colors to capture light and essential form. Pieces like "Brisbane Subtropical" and "Forest Lake Brisbane" exude the lazy heat of the heavy Australian sun. Wilson claims to spend a lot of time searching for an interesting vantage point from which to paint, and his careful eye for composition and balance is evident.

"For me, the paintings feel like authentic souvenirs of the places and people experienced," Wilson writes.

"There isn't any pretense about Gordon or his work," says Bradley. "He's painting what he sees -- he's not trying to layer a whole lot of meaning or allegory on it."


"Gordon Wilson: Plein Air Down Under" runs through Oct. 28 at the Tinman Gallery, 811 W. Garland Ave. Wilson will demonstrate his work on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1 pm. Call 325-1500.

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