has spent his life painting, struggling and trying to find his
place in a world he didn't always understand. His passion has pushed
him to society's fringes, where he finally feels free to pursue
the interests of his heart.
"Fear No Art," reads the bumper sticker on his truck parked
outside the modest adobe where he lives and paints in Galisteo, N.M.
The command also is his credo."I paint because I have to," said Laurence, relaxing over
a cup of tea in his studio, surrounded by his oils on canvas.
"I have to find some way of connecting with myself and that's
what painting is about. Art demands. Nothing about it comes easily.
The more I paint, the more I realize how hard it is. It takes a lifetime."
For Laurence, painting is a jealous master, one that doesn't allow
the artist to have anyone else around."It's a solitary occupation," Laurence
said. "You have to live like a monk."
It also leaves him dissatisfied, uncertain as to whether he's making
an impact on anybody or simply slaving away In darkness.
'The self-doubt is constant,' he said. I literally don't know every
day whether I'm producing something great or terrible. Who is the expert
who is going to tell me that?"
Cloistered in his studio, the shy, soft-spoken artist paints daily,
capturing universal human experiences in Vermeer like detail. His figures
are caught in specific moments in time. They express a range of evocative
emotions we all share. In fact, it may be impossible to view his work
and not experience a profound reaction.
"I want to make contact with something that is real in us," he
said. "I don't know whether that's comforting or discomforting.
I want to comfort the disturbed and disturb, the comfortable."
An exhibit of Laurence's recent oil paintings opens with a reception
from 5 to 7 p.m. today, Oct. 16, at the Fred R. Kline Gallery.
Laurence grew up in London and was drawing by the time he was 3.
"I don't know how or why I started painting," he said. But
at 10, I exhibited my first painting in a juried show. It was an oil
painting of a fortress in the woods."
At 15, he realized his parents did not want him to be an artist so
he dropped out of high school, left home for good and enrolled in London's
Byam Shaw School of Art on a scholarship. He then continued his studies
at the London College of Printing and St. Martin's School of Art.
But in his early 20s he became bitterly disillusioned by the art world
and spent the next 20 years working as a fashion designer, a photographer,
an interior designer and a graphic designer, yet always trying to find
time to paint.
Nothing spoke to him as passionately as painting, however. He eventually
chucked his jobs and moved to New York City to obtain a master of fine
arts degree at the New York Academy of Fine Art, from which he graduated
"I thought I'd go nuts if I didn't literally give into following
what I thought I needed to do," he said. "It took me 20 years
to realize my energy was being sucked out into other stuff.
"This requires every ounce of energy I've got. I don't do anything
else. I just paint, read, paint, eat, paint and sleep. I don't have
any kind of hobby other than living."
Its through painting that Laurence expresses his thoughts to the world.
"For a long time, I thought that painting was simply a form of
sickness; that it was a compensation for people who had difficulty
with the verbal, which was difficult for me," he said. "Painting
is a desperate attempt to find another form of communication when you
can't verbalize things normally. It's like the shadow side."
The shadow side occupies much of Laurence's work but it's always balanced
"Light is the absolute opposite of darkness and you can't successfully
have light without darkness," he said. 'Everything has this shadow
side. As soon as you have happiness, you have sorrow. As soon as you
have life, you have death. As soon as a child is born, it's grappling
with the fear of death."
The focal piece of Laurence's exhibit, a large scale diptych titled
The Faith Healer, is filled with darkness illuminated by golden rays
The left panel depicts a faith healer, a bespectacled doctor wearing
a white coat. But he's barefoot, holding his hand in front of the chest
of a male patient who's nude and glowing with light.
The right panel depicts the doctor's office, where X rays on a screen
reveal images of art, science and religion. Laurence calls those disciplines "the
three main endeavors of humanity".
But the X rays are not exactly what they seem.
"All of a sudden, we're not believing in medical science," Laurence
said. "The growth of alternative healing is astronomical. In this
piece, I'm just trying to figure out the schism of beliefs that were
once absolutely rock-solid. Now it's turning into a quest for something
that is rock-solid.
"These days, I'm becoming more and more convinced life is about
having faith, bringing what is essential and unknowable into some cognitive
place. We all crave clarity on some level, to have some understanding
of what is constantly just out of reach."