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In the Garden of Acidulous Flowers

Story by Michael Helsem

Steven Hull - Untitled (Starry Sky)

Steven Hull - untitled (Starry Sky) - marker drawing
images courtesy Conduit Gallery

There is a kind of drawing that is inspired by art, and another that is not. The former, when persevered in with talent, usually finds its place amidst the orthodox art of its day. But the other kind, with its roots deep in the compulsions of adolescence and its only law the stylistic evolution of those compulsions, often does not; or else it deliberately gravitates toward less prestigious modes, where its recognition (if any) follows upon its rampaging uniqueness rather than any conventional measure of excellence.

Steven Hull - untitled - 6

Steven Hull - untitled (6) - marker drawing

You find this sort in the shadow-worlds of fantasy art, tattoos, record album art, graffiti, comics, and subcultural manifestations of still murkier provenance. However, in a time that pays at least lip service to the idea of the Visionary Outsider, such artists occasionally stumble into a gallery show, uncomfortable as it may be to unfurl this personal labyrinth upon the pure white walls of aesthetics.

Steven Hull - untitled (Crescent Moon)

Steven Hull - untitled (Crescent Moon) - marker drawing

Steven Hull, at Conduit Gallery, has a dozen mesmerizing drawings executed in colored markers; also a few attempts at painting in oils. Like acidulous flowers, his drawings unite the perfected line and the uncanny coign of the autodidact. He has invented for himself a way to create blurry grounds, which much broaden their technical vocabulary, and while any single image can stand alone, en masse they form a story-like array, or maybe a schizo Tarot.

After examining these intense, lurid artifacts closely, it's quite a jolt to find the adjacent paintings are by the same artist. Of course they're equally bright, and somewhat figurative-narrative, but all finesse is gone. That does give them a primitivist charm, and suggests that when Hull has been painting for as long as he's been drawing, he should really have something to shake the art world. — If he doesn't come out with his masterpiece as a graphic novel tomorrow.

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