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Newport 2000

By Leslie O'Donnell

Of the Newport News-Times

For its first show under its new name, the Newport Fine Arts Gallery presents the work of an artist new to Lincoln County, Juergen Eckstein.

The gallery was formerly known as the Nye Beach Interactive Gallery.

Eckstein, who moved to the coast in February and is building a home in South Beach, said he has been painting all his life. But he is looking forward to spending more time at the easel once his home and studio are complete, rather than turning to the brush as a break from the pressures of a career with Lufthansa.

The German native works primarily in oil on canvas, but the gallery exhibit will also feature three dimensional pieces, several composed of objects found during his years spent living in Asia.

Eckstein's paintings - his favorite medium - are large and primarily abstract, and many have gold paint that gleams in the right lighting. He uses "regular oil paint, but applies it like watercolor by painting layer after layer.

Eckstein does not seek to explain his paintings - he wants the viewer to think. His early paintings were landscapes and still life’s, more representational than what he paints today, although in the German expressionist style, but he changed to more cerebral images.

"You see everything at first glance," he said of paintings of flowers and landscapes. "In the end, it becomes a little boring, because it eliminates fantasy and the thinking process. So I switched the subject to what I was thinking about.

"As a consequence, if you think in abstract terms, you paint in abstract terms, he said. "When you paint, you put down your ideas, and hopefully, you find people who share them. I don't say my ideas are right, but I like debate."

While his paintings often contain figurative detail, Eckstein does not like to interpret his work. "Then people get lazy, and only see what, they hear," he said. "In my work, you do not see everything at first glance, which I think is fun."

The gold paint in his work reflects his views on far more than color. "It's the color of manipulation, because it's in all our institutions," he said. "We follow so easily, we accept things. With repetition and conditioning, we stop the thinking process, and we -are manipulated by our institutions. I like to ask questions."

He cited a piece. of roof slate he found in a dump. When he retrieved it and painted it, it suddenly gained a new importance, he said.

"Why is that?" he asked. "I want people to think what all these things mean, what is being demanded, of us, what makes people act a certain way. Why do we have monuments, and who are they for? If I find people who half-way share this, then I have done the same thing with my paintings as writing a 'book - and it looks nicer."

But he cautions about reading too much into a painting. "I'm not A philosopher, I'm a painter," he said, noting that a light color at the corner of a painting may be in that place for no other reason than because the overall painting needed a spot of light in that area,

The process of working in his chosen medium, which for Eckstein may involve painting a few strokes, then chatting with friends in his studio over a beer, is what he enjoys most. "I never complained because my father never let me study art, it has been such a nice valve, for job pressure, "he said. "I like what I'm doing."

During graduate work in business, at Portland State University, Eckstein met his wife, an Oregon native, and after frequent trips to the coast, they decided to settle in Lincoln County. While his house and studio are being built - "my wife complains the studio will be the biggest room in the house," he said - he has had little room to paint, and instead began creating sculptural pieces in clay at Tsunami Ceramics . He began attending local gallery shows as well and met Marilyn Morris and Rick Ragusa, co-owners of the Newport Fine Arts Gallery.

Today's show is Eckstein's first in his adopted hometown.

A reception for the artist is set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today. In keeping with Eckstein's homeland, strudel, bratwurst, beer, black bread and trimmings will be served.

The exhibit continues through Oct. 30.'I'he gallery is at 316 NW Coast St., Newport, phone 574-8445 or 867-7784.

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