Geometry plus nature equals art

By Stacy Trevenon
Half Moon Bay Review
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Patrons browsing through Moon News, 315 Main St. in Half Moon Bay, might be diverted from books by the unusual art on the walls.

These are unique mixed media assemblages by Kings Mountain artist Werner Glinka. His art is now on exhibit at the ARTshare Gallery 25 in San Mateo through March 30, and six pieces will decorate Moon News through March 1.

Glinka's art, which he has sold at the Kings Mountain Art Fair for four years, presents an unusual marriage of geometry and nature.

The German-born artist declines to assign meaning to the work. As he puts it in "Visual Mantras and Abstract Symbolism: The art of Werner Glinka," he doesn't mean anything by the work.

"I would never be so presumptuous as to tell anybody, 'This is what it is,' " he says.

Instead, he prefers to dwell on the work's abstract aspects.

"I work at the cusp between simplicity and complexity - inspired by a sense of calm and reflection," he says on his Web site, "If I succeed in the process, the observer will get a platform where to stand and get an amplified perspective of self and life complexities."

Glinka's art straddles the complex and simple. It evokes appreciation and wonder with its smooth merging of color, juxtaposition of geometry as art and natural objects like sticks or pine seeds, and mingled textures.

The medium-sized (up to two feet square) works, many simply titled "Object" with a number, are dominated by perfect squares painted in muted earth tones to brilliant reds and electric blues. Textures of sand or ash, ranging from rough to grassy, may fill only one square and accentuate the others.

Side-by-side metal strips give a different kind of feel. To top it all off, the sticks or pine seeds are arranged with both haphazard simplicity and well-planned balance. The sticks or seeds aren't fresh, but here, things on the verge of decay take on a strange beauty.

The overall effect is artistic complexity, through layered colors, textures and natural objects, and balance as precise geometry meshes with the random natural materials.

Glinka's art had roots in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, his coal-and-steel hometown he likened to "Pittsburgh in the '60s" with lots of smog and little greenery. Growing up in the industrial city, he dabbled with crafts, apprenticed to an electrician and studied electrical and computer engineering.

In 1981, while working as a computer engineer in a venture with Memorex, he came to America and fell in love with it. "I didn't want to leave," he said. "It was a beautiful country." He had also fallen in love with the Bauhaus movement of architecture, which began in 1920s Germany until the war drove it out of the country to America. In this style, form adheres to function and there are no superficial details. >"That spoke to me," he said.

He gravitated to Silicon Valley, pursued computer engineering, and made a fateful decision 12 years ago to switch to high-tech marketing. Six years ago, that work shift allowed him flexibility with his time, and art became more dominant in his life. Besides, the focus on marketing taught him how to promote his art.

He became a marketing consultant to high-tech firms. That work took him on business trips to places like Japan, where he fell in love with simple Japanese gardens which "reduced the garden to its minimum components," he said.

Glinka now holds permanent residency and is considering citizenship. When he came to Kings Mountain eight years ago, the influences of his work and his redwood-surrounded home jelled, inspiring him to incorporate nature into his art.

"What spoke to me," he said of the work of that time, "was that it was the first time I've seen nature that combined rather than clashed with technology."

He does commission work, and serves on the Pacific Art League, Palo Alto, board of directors.

He displayed work at Enso in 2002, and maintains a gallery at the 1870 Art Center on the Peninsula. His Gallery 25 exhibit is the first time he has shown in San Mateo.

And, as he says on his Web site, "he plays, up to his elbows, in sand, ash, paint and various man-made and natural objects."

He still says it doesn't mean anything - except at times he was "faced with something distressing, like the war in Iraq, and I made a piece to express that dismay.

"Most (ideas) flow from my influences," he said. "I pick them up as I live."