Tomas Nakada


Landscapes, Real and Imaginary, Seen in the Light of Day

San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, January 6, 2023

by Kenneth Baker

Bay Area painter Tomas Nakada used to coat his small paintings with wax, muting their colors and lending the pictures a quality of obscurity in plain sight.

His recent works at Anglim in acrylic and oil on panel dispense with the wax and with the tight metal frames he once favored, so in comparison they have the chromatic sharpness of a morning after the fog has burned away.

Nakada calls himself an abstract painter, but his work formerly brought to mind the intimate, yet alien realm of microbiology, especially during the years when the popular consciousness was haunted by AIDS, in something like the way the threat of bioterrorism does now.

More recently Nakada seems to have toned down the topical resonance of his work. But give it a moment.

Looking at the abraded and desiccated surface of "Mid Day" (2006), a viewer may think of the seemingly uncomposed early work of Terry Winters, in which forms adapted from scientific illustrations drift in spaces that neutralize scale. But the dark brown blotches that hover in Nakada's bright yellow and rose field can suddenly take on a ghoulish, masklike air suggestive of charred, severed heads. These and other components of the paintings at points recall the strange faces and masks that haunt the paintings of James Ensor.

Today the pressure of war consciousness, of daily atrocities in the Middle East and elsewhere, may predispose us to such a response. Nakada seems in no way to seek topical reference, but to find that his painting process -- which involves a good deal of physical give-and-take -- coughs it up anyway.

In the four-panel "White Matter" (2006), he appears to have painted flower beds almost as Stefan Kürten might, with a more distant reminiscence of Gustav Klimt's blossom-dotted landscapes. But again, up close, Nakada's pictures contain no imagery at all. Rather they drive toward a degree of definition that will cause viewers' unconscious preoccupations to declare themselves willy-nilly.

Occasionally Nakada misjudges, insisting too much upon abstractness or a certain scale or rhythm, as in "Odds and Ends" (2006). But where he lets his instincts serve him, he lets ours do likewise.

Images - Biography - Artist’s Website