REVIEW: Jean Nagai and Peter Scherrer


Salon Refu ends its brief but amazing history as the only gallery in South Puget Sound to rival major galleries in major cities by offering a two-person show of works by Jean Nagai and Peter Scherrer. The gallery closes its doors at the end of this month, but not necessarily forever. Thomas Architecture Studio will rent the space for the next two years, and Ron Thomas has asked salon owner Susan Christian to curate some art shows there.

Meanwhile there’s the final show featuring two painters whose works complement each other nicely. They complement each other because each is influenced by Pacific Northwest scenery and each paints over-all; that is, their compositions weigh evenly across the expanse of paper or canvas rather than with one or more prime points of interest. This emulates the manner of such modern masters as Olitski, Jackson Pollock and Jules Mark Tobey. Scherrer fills his canvases with fields of short brushstrokes, Nagai with crowded fields of dots. They differ in that Nagai’s fields of dots are almost mathematical in their precision and create subtle patterns that seem to emerge mystically from the background. Scherrer’s short lines, applied in expressive jabs and squiggles, are much looser and more energetic than Nagai’s carefully placed dots. Also, Scherrer’s pictures have more easily recognizable subject matter, including animals, houses, mountains, people and trees. Some are funny as hell with snakes and crusty old men looking like the wildly imaginative creatures in Gaylen Hansen’s paintings. There’s at least one nude that could be a merger of nudes by Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse.

Most of Nagai’s works are of modest size, 15 by 22 inches and 22 by 30 inches. There is one large one, 48 by 36 inches in acrylic and what’s listed as “cyanesque spores” on canvas. I have no idea what a cyanesque spore is and can’t even find it on Google but the painting, called “Ether” and made up of thousands and thousands of blue dots on white and white dots on blue, looks like either a giant wasp nest or a raging tornado and is quite impressive. Nagai’s smaller works are more decorative and restful and are impressive for the sheer patience and diligence required to make them.

Sherrer’s most formidable works are two large paintings that face one another from opposite gallery walls. They’re each a little more than six by seven feet. One is filled with chevron-shaped brushstrokes in blue, green and purple within which can be found four comical figures of a woman with a green face, a snake, a green man wearing a red shirt, and a frog. The other is a similarly styled profusion of leaves, rocks, little frog faces and dancing figures. The fascination of this one is, first, the energy and explosion of blue, violet, black and yellow; and second, the fun of searching out all the hidden figures, many of which suddenly become clear though invisible a moment before.

The one I referred to earlier as a nude that looks like a merger of Gauguin and Matisse is a little oil-on-wood panel by Scherrer called “Phoebe 1.” It’s outstanding for its line quality, the creaminess of its heavy paint application and its subtle color variations.

This show should be seen, especially as this might be your last chance to see works by either of these painters in Olympia.

(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)

What: Jean Nagai and Peter Scherrer

Where: Salon Refu,
114 Capitol Way N, Olympia

When: 2-6 p.m. Thursdays – Sundays and by appointment through May 21

How much: free

Learn more: 360-280-3540 | Facebook

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