Geoffrey Meredith, publicizer of many area artists' work,
discusses his own library gallery exhibit
By Lou Fancher
There's nothing artificial about Geoffrey Meredith.
This, even though he fly fishes with fabricated lures, worked for decades in the faux galaxy of advertising, deftly fakes out chess opponents and paints most frequently in the abstract sphere of shape, form, color and texture.
An exhibit of his paintings opened Sept. 3 at the Orinda Library Auditorium, and a free reception is set for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The work of local sculpture artists Lisa Graham Lee and Carey Carpenter and watercolor paintings by Kristin Borst will also be on display.
Inviting a visitor into the Lafayette home he and his wife, Val, have occupied for nearly 40 years, the pitter-pattering entrance of their 21⁄2-year-old grandson, Thompson Meredith, introduces the visage of a typical grandpa -- the son of artist Helen Campe Meredith, who was a well-known painter in Meredith's hometown of Pittsburg, Pa.
He has art and business degrees from Princeton University and Stanford, a resume including executive-level positions with Ogilvy and Mather, Ketchum Advertising and Hal Riney and Partners; two published books on management practices; and 22 years as president/founder of Lifestage Matrix Marketing.
"I paint with underlying motivation, with intimations of mortality, to do something lasting, through a compulsion related to my son," the 71-year-old says. The Merediths' son succumbed to a mysterious brain disease while in his 20s, and the mention of him prompts Meredith to say, "I wonder if we've gone to a too-deep place."
Perhaps that's why he finds the contemplative, intellectual acts of painting and fly fishing remarkably compelling.
"Trout don't live in ugly places," he says. "Painting, fishing and chess: time can pass and I don't realize it."
Trolling through stacks upon stacks of canvases in the garage he turned into a studio after his career progressed to the point where he controlled it, instead of vice versa, is like visual feasting. Red pigment roars and fierce black lines blaze in the abstract "Figure/Ground 4." Gaze for a moment at the serenely soothing "Woman on the Beach" and one's pulse slows. "Salt Ponds I," created from an elevated vantage point outside of Fremont, falls into a category he calls "Norcal Representational Abstractions," but bursts spontaneously into being and bears none of the label's heavy-handedness.
"Mason from the Mark" reveals the view from the eighth-floor window of San Francisco's Mark Hopkins Hotel -- morning's stunning light and his command of dramatic, elevated verticals and shadowy diagonals. The Solana Beach Series paintings' flattened perspectives and thicker application of oil paint echo with influences of favorite artists -- "Bay Area Figurative" artists Richard Diebenkorn and Henry Villierme, French painter Nicolaus de Staël and San Francisco-based Raimonds Staprans.
"Geoff's work appeals to someone with a tangible reference to the past, to someone with an eye for art," said Christopher Hill, whose Christopher Hill Galleries in Healdsburg and St. Helena have displayed Meredith's work for three years.
"I value the gentle retro feel of his work, the simplicity of line, the interpretive element that allows a viewer to create his or her own final setting," Hill said.
Having recently sold Meredith's painting of a scene at Tilden Park, Hill says epic abstract art pieces larger than 48-by-48-inches are increasingly the greatest percentage of his sales. A younger population of art collectors and interior designers adept at pairing furnishings with abstract art are driving the trend, Hill suggests.
Mostly, Meredith is driven not by trends but by the sheer joy of working "en plein air" -- painting outside. And he's intrigued by searching for elemental truths and puzzling over them in a painting's pattern, light, shadows, color fields and structural elements.
"You're hunting a fish; you execute a concept," he says. It's unclear whether he refers to actual fishing or painting until his completing the thought makes it clear the two activities mingle as one in his mind's eye. "I see the right place; I know it. There's no yearning ahead of time."
The approximately 20 paintings Meredith is selecting for the Orinda Library exhibit are likely to include scenes familiar to Bay Area residents. In addition to Tilden Park and Fremont salt ponds, a Lafayette Reservoir piece he's toyed with for five years and a cityscape looking up California Street in San Francisco may make the cut.