Essay by Jim Demetre | Photographs by Andrew Waits
Although it is rare today to encounter a Seattle artist who both works and lives in the city’s downtown center, the Tashiro Kaplan Building, on a busy corner in Seatte’s historic Pioneer Square, is an oasis where such sightings regularly take place. Walking into Paul Komada’s capacious studio and abode above the often raucous street, one is immediately struck by the intense colors that emanate from every wall, side room, nook and cranny. In addition to the large, abstract paintings with their confident lines, there are tidy bundles of yarn, stacked kitchenware and familiar children’s toys.
Serene, bespectacled and soft-spoken, with a modified samurai hair style, Komada is in conversation as calm, expansive and sublime as his work itself.
Komada is regarded by many as the region’s most exciting practitioner of abstraction. A master of color and surface, he has injected a new vibrancy and dimension into its familiar set of subjects. The oils, watercolors and drawings he has produced since his days as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where he received his BFA in painting (he later received an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania), have drawn attention for the physical pleasure they evoke, the intellectual rigor they embody, and, most uniquely, an underlying modesty rooted in a sense of the limitations of the fine arts in our contemporary world.
Abstraction, in its purest form, had been associated with grandiose ambitions throughout the 20th Century. The abstract artist, an acetic shaman who dominated the art world through many of its decades, sought to distill from his (yes) materials the unadulterated essences of heaven and earth. Once the art elite grew tired of such heroic mysticism, abstraction once again found its place among the myriad other genres of visual art, maintaining its phenomenological vocabulary (and sense of hubris) while showing up as elements of everything from post-Minimalism to interior design.