For almost two years in the mid-2000s, Tom Paiement was consumed by a series of three large-scale collages that addressed his world view of a new century. They were dark, harsh and serious, and focused on themes of war, environmentalism, technology, consumerism and the human spirit.
Working on these pieces, which Paiement collectively titled “Entropy,” was draining. It would be an overstatement to characterize the artist’s process as debilitating, but the work required a huge effort, and left him emotionally taxed.
Challenged though he was, Paiement emerged from that series satisfied he made a bold statement and confident with his artistic expression. He used all his skills in that series, and pushed himself to new levels of accomplishment.
The next thing he worked on involved smaller mixed-material collages of flowers, which leads us to his latest body of work, “Search for Form,” on view through Sept. 1 at Greenhut Galleries. Generally, Paiement shows new work at the Portland gallery every two years.
Following the path that he laid out in his previous work, “Search for Form” involves about two dozen mixed-media pieces, including collages and drawings, of flowers.
While linked by process and technique with his previous output, this work represents a significant thematic departure from the “Entropy” series. This show is colorful, bright and cheery, and it accurately represents how the artist has been feeling in recent years.
His view of the world is still clouded by the realities of war, discord and disharmony. But there’s optimism here. With titles like “Lover’s Flowers” and “Singular Beauty,” the pieces in “Search for Form” suggest a more peaceful, intimate state of affairs.
“There is consistency in this work in terms of Tom’s incredible sense of color,” said gallery owner Peggy Golden Greenhut. “He continues to surprise us with colors you wouldn’t necessarily put together. And this work is beautifully constructed. His background as an engineer is evident when you look at how he puts his pieces together.”
Paiement isn’t sure, but he thinks the earliest seeds for this work were sown during a trip that he and his wife, Maret, took down South.
“She had some flowers lying around, and I just started drawing them,” Paiement said in an interview at the gallery. “I must have enjoyed what the flower is about. I like the delicacy of a flower. The flower is one of the most delicate entities that exists.”
Paiement drew his earliest flower drawings in his post-”Entropy” phase as a tribute to soldiers whose lives were at risk.
A trained engineer, Paiement is a multi-talented and adept artist in a variety of media and materials. He likes to paint, he makes prints, he draws, and he fashions intricate constructions and collages from discarded materials. He taps all those skills in “Search for Form,” using wire, scraps of metal, wood, mesh, newsprint and various found objects to make his constructed images.
His flowers come in many geometric shapes, including circles, rectangles, triangles and ovals.
Paiement calls himself “an experimenter” to find form. He has no rules, no formulas. He follows his instincts and uses materials at hand in his studio. He is interested in how materials interact and his response to those unplanned and spontaneous interactions.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: