As a series, Bill Santelli’s Dream Flash paintings form a homogeneous and coherent whole. In each painting, colors swirl and mix formlessly against a geometric armature. One would be hard pressed to say whether color or design (form) dominates Santelli’s work. In some passages, the hard-lined geometric forms appear to contain the swirling colors, while in others, the colors effortlessly transgress the boundaries of the forms, seeming to threaten them with dissolution. In one sense, then, the Dream Flash series comprises a continuous dialogue of form and formlessness.

But the geometric shafts in Santelli’s paintings insert themselves with a suddenness and clarity which is as much temporal as spatial. The light in the paintings is ambient and the images exist outside any clear spatial coordinates. Rather than establishing a spatial locus for the image, the shafts of color give the work a quality of revelation. And in nearly all of the paintings, the background from which the colored shapes emerge or into which they dissolve is either black - the absence of color – or white – the amalgam of color. Against this background, the primary colors swirl and intermix, forming secondary and sometimes tertiary colors in patterns which are random and temporary. It is tempting to read into these works a drama of creation, told here in coloristic terms and played off against the alpha and omega of black and white: a continuous unfolding of new and vital forms between nothingness and plenitude. Indeed, much of the success of Santelli’s Dream Flash series lies in their invoking in the viewer a sense of something momentous and primal – something well beyond the possibilities of natural representation or logical discourse.

The key to this work may lie, however, in the title. These are, quite literally, the stuff that dreams are made of. These are images which defy stability or rational description because they exist at the subliminal level of our consciousness. These are forms that never achieve totality; of colors whose purity exists only momentarily, before dissolving and reforming into other colors. The images and the colors in the Dream Flash series are in a constant state of becoming, continuously evolving and transforming into other images. The artist acknowledges that he finds his inspiration in his dreams. And to the age-old question of whether we dream in color, Santelli offers a resounding affirmative.

James Hall, PhD
oxford gallery

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