Tisbury artist David Tierney explores textures

The artist with "Prism." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Artist David Tierney opened his first show in two years at his Hines Point studio in Vineyard Haven with a reception last Sunday. The walls of his airy, second-story gallery display the variety of artistic styles that characterize this Vineyard-raised painter. The exhibit will stay up through Labor Day.

Working in oil, Mr. Tierney incorporates the textures in wood panels in works like the eye-catching “Lucy Vincent Panoramic” or “Jane’s Cove Panoramic.” These horizontal panels are made of band-sawed clear pine that Mr. Tierney found at Cottle’s Lumber, but that is no longer available there. Even when the artist, who supports himself off-season as a finish carpenter, paints on canvas, he backs the work on wood. “I don’t like bouncy surfaces,” he explains. He sometimes builds simple wood frames for his landscapes, setting off the panels from the frame with a thin line of black-painted space.

Since wood is also his medium as a carpenter, it’s no surprise that Mr. Tierney is intrigued by texture, and the fine detail in much of his representational work reflects the same kind of attention necessary for high-quality finish carpentry. In one case, the artist has turned a piece of wood flotsam into art by covering it with many shades of pigment. He also enjoys building up the surface in some of his work, soaking cloth in paint to enrich the surface of an abstract composition. He has even used pillowcases or a swimsuit, exposing them in the painting if he likes their patterns.

Yet Mr. Tierney’s day job is not the only influence on his art. He also enjoys creating design-oriented abstract paintings like “Prism.” It’s a reflection of his academic training at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, which both emphasize design.

The colorful grid of triangles that makes up “Prism” reflects a reworking of a piece that Mr. Tierney began in 1987, not long after he had finished his training. A frequent re-worker of his paintings, he says it sometimes takes a while to find out what’s going on.

“I don’t go by the rules,” he said. “I’m a little bit different than most people. I will re-work a painting until I feel it’s right.” Elements of the artist’s earlier conception peek through in the final rendition of “Prism,” adding resonance.

He calls “Untitled,” a more recent abstract painting, experimental. Consisting of variegated blue rectangles and squares, it is punctuated by a section of parallel vertical lines that complete the painting compositionally. He also makes stencils and uses them to create the patterns in some of the small abstracts on display. You can recognize Mr. Tierney’s Mazda pick-up by the abstract patterns he’s painted on the vehicle’s tailgate.

Some of Mr. Tierney’s most fascinating works combine his interest in abstract forms — particularly triangles — with his skill at rendering detailed representational scenes. In “Looking Glass II,” one of his most recent works, a lyrically depicted seascape of double breakers rolling into shore at an angle dissolves into a crisp depiction of triangles in multi-colors that frame the right side of the painting. In conceptual terms, it’s as if a digital photo is emerging from its enlarged pixels.

Mr. Tierney exhibited at the former E’kaya Gallery in Tisbury from 2005 through 2007, serving as co-director with Tanya Augoustinos. He has maintained a relationship with Ms. Augoustinos, who now runs A Gallery in Oak Bluffs, and several of his works were on display last year in that gallery when it was located on State Road in Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Tierney lived for 10 years next to the Hines Point gallery he rents, before artist Meg Mercier left and it became available.

While he spends his winters supporting himself as a carpenter, he devotes the summer months of July and August to painting. “That’s when the light’s best,” he said. “I was painting in the morning, right up to the show.”

Paintings by David Tierney, 60 Hines Point Rd., Vineyard Haven, by appointment through Labor Day. Commissions welcomed. For more information, visit tierneydavid9@gmail.com or call 508-560-5557.