What's it mean? Theology and art at Mudhouse

Delmon Brown Hall IV may not be trying to distract viewers with his loopy running commentary, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he did. The artist paints as a highly personal form of spiritual exercise, and he isn’t afraid to let us know it.
As Hall claims in statements accompanying his exhibits, his work results directly from private contemplation– which has something to do with his own odd dualist theology. For more on this, you’ll just have to see the statement accompanying his latest exhibit, “New Work,” at the Mudhouse. Hall spends so much time talking up spiritual forces and meditative processes that he never really gets around to discussing his own paintings.
Taking Hall at his word, one might arrive at the Mudhouse expecting the Sistine Chapel. What we get, however, is something not quite so prodigious. 
Hall’s paintings may result from the most rigorous of spiritual practices, but you’d never know it by looking at them. They are abstract, extroverted, flashy, a bit repetitive– and not about to convert anyone to anything (at least without the artist’s statement). 
All that one needs to know about Hall’s work can be gleaned from the first painting (untitled) just inside the door. It’s the biggest canvas I’ve ever seen at the Mudhouse– maybe 12 feet by 5 feet– which makes it impressive at least on a human/Charlottesville scale. It’s also the most complex thing he has on display.
Hall’s work is filled with something like imaginary calligraphy. Nonsense letters or symbols overlap and float around from one end of the canvas to the other. Here, Hall uses loosely defined swaths of bright color in a style that seems to owe at least a little bit to the aesthetic of graffiti. The canvas is very jumbled and becomes blurrier at the edges. It’s a manic scene, and Hall allows little respite for the weary eye.
Five smaller paintings hung further along the Mudhouse’s side wall reiterate the basic concept in smaller chunks. With these, Hall also shows a bit more restraint; his forms are not so cramped, and his color schemes adhere to a tighter range. When Hall does limit the range of colors he uses, he focuses on varying shades of a kitschy neon variety.
Although, who knows? God’s light might very well be model-rocket neon green.

Delmon Brown Hall IV shows new paintings at the Mudhouse in April. 213 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 984-6833.

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