“Unusual self-portraits, ‘exceptional’ photos,” SF Gate

By Kenneth Baker via SF Gate

"Changing Images of Pictorial Space II" (2006), Oil on panel by Amer Kobaslija, 42 x 63 inches Photo: Amer Kobaslija, Rena Bransten Gallery

Changing Images of Pictorial Space II? (2006), Oil on panel by Amer Kobaslija, 42 x 63 inches Photo: Amer Kobaslija, Rena Bransten Gallery

The work of Bosnian-born painter Amer Kobaslija, who lives in Florida, slips smoothly into the long-flowing Bay Area art current of intimate figuration.

Rena Bransten presents a roomful of Kobaslija’s paintings, a few very large, some no bigger than a computer screen. In style and content, they remind me of the work of Sonoma painter Chester Arnold, who also makes a subject of his studio from time to time. But more dramatically than Arnold, Kobaslija works the studio as a metaphor, possibly fictive, for his state of mind or the condition of his life.

Several pictures describe a kind of fly-on-the-ceiling viewpoint, taking in things almost panoramically, evoking the artist trying to get distance on himself and his work: a studio problem seldom declared so openly or amusingly as Kobaslija formulates it. He never appears in these surveys of the studio – more than one space is described – but then each one counts as a metaphorical self-portrait.

“Changing Images of Pictorial Space II” (2006), the least panoramic studio picture, contains the most striking figure for the painter’s creative situation. It shows a small work table and empty chair before a lovingly described paint-streaked wall on which hang several tacked-up images, mementoes or spurs to ambition or both.

On the wall just above the picture’s center – at head level, were this a portrait – hangs a small white canvas: either empty and prepared to receive an image or a monochrome exercise in minimalism, hinting at frustration or the incursion of an alternate idea of artistic freedom.

The smoothly brushed open rectangle has a double or even triple identity: as an abstract figment in a depictive painting, as a bare-facts passage in otherwise elaborated surface and as a symbol for the painter’s subjectivity, the dimension of his experience that forever eludes illustration.

These comments may make Kobaslija’s work sound more sober than it is. In its report of work spaces’ dishevelment spilling into everyday life, it makes us wonder what quotient of wistful, private self-criticism it may contain.

Amer Kobaslija: (In)Significant Objects: Paintings. Through Aug. 16. Rena Bransten Gallery, 77 Geary St., San Francisco. (415) 982-3292, www.renabranstengallery.com.