The abstract landscapes of Philly painter Fabian Lopez [video]

     Fabian Lopez works on an abstract landscape painting in his Philadelphia studio.  (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Fabian Lopez works on an abstract landscape painting in his Philadelphia studio. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    In his fourth-floor studio at the Crane Arts building, Fabian Lopez is applying paint to a small canvas perched on two stacked buckets. The point of the brush in his hand is as thin as thread.

    “This one-inch square took about two hours to paint,” he says, pointing to the canvas.

    Lopez’s paintings are abstract, though there’s a strong sense of location. They feel like landscapes, but he calls them “displaced” and says they possess a narrative structure.

    The stories are drawn from anything: pictures hung around his childhood home, music, or whatever Lopez has been reading.  Lately, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Other Side of Paradise” has been on Lopez’s mind, as well as stories from his family and the tough economic conditions in his hometown of Los Angeles.

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    With these influences in mind, Lopez wants to show his paintings and drawings together, so that the utopian elements in the bright landscapes oppose the “grotesqueness” of his drawings.

    Lopez pulls out a drawer and explains the origin of the drawings inside.

    “I was living on 6th and Girard, and I think it was for four months straight, that as I walked out of my house I’d see people who were coming from the meth clinic. And this was eight in the morning and it was pretty depressing to experience that.  I started to relate that experience to [Francisco] Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ series . . . there were very grotesque elements, but I found similarities between what I was experiencing and the people who were inhabiting that location.”

    Lopez no longer lives near that clinic, but around his studio he draws stories from the art that he’s created. Like the drawer full of drawings, they are linked to the various places that Lopez has lived or studied: Rome, Santa Barbara and Philadelphia.

    “One of the most consistent things about all those places is the studio. For me it’s like, ‘Where’s home?’ Well, home’s the studio . . . and then I have a place where I sleep.”

    Lopez graduated from the Tyler School of Art in 2009 with his Masters degree and has hung around to paint. Since then he’s spent a year working at the Trader Joe’s in Center City and taught at Tyler and Rowan University. At the end of July, Lopez will be moving to Skidmore College in upstate New York, where he’s secured a tenure-track position.

    He credits Philadelphia’s creative market for helping him get a studio and obtain teaching experience. He’s been inspired by the dialogue of ambitious artists in the city, and will miss the Philadelphia Museum of Art and walking along the Schuylkill River.

    After hours of painting, Lopez often walks through the city, taking mental notes of the structures and colors he sees to take back into the studio. He says he will continue to paint slowly, because it allows him to “make sense of” and create cohesion between things that may seem opposed to one another.

    “I think most importantly, what painting does for me, is it allows me to filter in all these subjects of interest. I think with painting, it should be an interpretation of one’s psychology or ideas.”

    Editor’s Note:  In a previous version of this article the time period of Francisco Goya’s “Disasters of War” series was misstated. 

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