By Jane Vick
Seager/Gray Gallery in Mill Valley is renowned for their excellent curation of contemporary artists. This summer, their exhibitions include“Paisajes del Silencio” or “Scenes of Silence,” a body of work by Ecuadorian artist Wolfgang Bloch. The show closes July 4.
Bloch, a Southern California-based artist, is known for his signature oceanic subject matter, which captures the immense tranquility of a seascape. His paintings are an immersive tribute to the powerful silence of both the ocean and the mind engaged in contemplation. There is an underwater quality to both his color palette and the visual volume he captures.
Born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Bloch came to the United States at the age of 18 to study marine biology at the University of Florida. He changed his major after realizing his propensity for art over science, and graduated with a BFA in 1987.
To stay in the United States, he then applied for another BFA program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In an interview with SHOUTOUT LA in June of 2021, Bloch said the move to Los Angeles was when he really began feeling at home in the United States.
“I still remember the feeling when I finally arrived in LA as I drove past downtown on my way to Pasadena. I loved it—the diversity of people, so many different cultures, the variety of foods, music, art—and I could finally speak Spanish again without getting dirty looks.” (“Meet Wolfgang Bloch: Artist” article, www.shoutoutla.com.)
After college, Bloch took a job as a designer with Gotcha Sportswear in Irvine, but left after four years to freelance. The transition back to tangible media and away from a computer screen nourished his creative spirit. Bloch’s love of the sea and graphic design skills resulted in a lot of illustrative work for surf companies, though he also produced graphics and logos for Indian Motorcycle.
Bloch’s skills are obvious, and it’s impressive to discover that this is the man behind some of the more iconic surf designs of the 1990s, including immediately recognizable Roxy and O’Neill graphics synonymous with Southern California beach style.
In 2000, Bloch was commissioned by Billabong to paint a large scale piece for the lobby of one of their buildings, and in this moment his career as an independent artist began to truly crest.
“I started painting again. It felt so good to just paint; to have the opportunity to experiment, to enjoy the process and not know where the work was going or where it would end up. It had been years since I experienced that.”
Bloch’s ocean-centric work shifted in 2013, when after 20 years of marriage he experienced a divorce that upturned his entire life. In a short documentary on Bloch’s life and work, by filmmaker Adam Warmington, Bloch said of this time, “Change comes to you, and you’re forced into something that you don’t want to go through. And it forces you to rethink everything, and that’s when you take chances. When you’re uncomfortable, that’s when really emotionally, as an artist, your real and best work comes out.” (View Wolfgang Bloch 2015 short documentary film by Adam Warmington at www.wolfgangbloch.com.)
The experience was acute for Bloch, and at first he struggled to find his way back to the canvas. Finally, he faced the art, and using whatever paint he had on hand, created something he described as a “dark piece.” He saw in it an underwater-scape. Bloch took this idea and began to experiment with it. Years later, this deep, dimensional waterscape is a defining feature in Boch’s work, capturing a sense of pressure and lightness all at once. Bloch calls this “the most honest work he’s done.”
Bloch’s “Paisajes del Silencio” convey that same honesty. Spacious and silent, they are inspired by Bloch’s quest for silence within his own mind. Each piece is expansive and gracious, inviting the viewer to resolve themselves within a vast natural tone. In each canvas, there is a sliver of light, inviting, along with that great silence, a spark of vitality.