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June 2012

Arts Profile:
Glowing Talent
Written By: 
Kristen Gehrman
Photographs By: 
Ruta Elvikyte

Teil Duncan’s painting career is off to a luminous start


When artist Teil Duncan painted the steeple of Second Presbyterian Church, she used hardly any white. “That steeple looks white, but it’s not. At different times during the day, it is a whole spectrum of colors,” she says. Layered in smoldering oranges, delicate lavenders, and soft grays, her subject seems to glow.

“I want my work to give people a deep appreciation for the beauty of color and how it is constantly changing in light,” says Duncan. “I want them to be wowed by the sense of motion and the way things glow.”

An Auburn University studio art grad who now has space at Redux Contemporary Art Center, Duncan is a classically trained oil painter with a not-so-classical approach. Using what she calls a “globbing and scraping process,” she layers oils onto canvas and scrapes them away with a palette knife to reveal multi-dimensional subjects. “I love being surprised by the colors I find underneath,” she says.

Over the past six years, Duncan’s subjects have ranged from a girl flying a kite, illuminated almost magically by a warm day’s rays, to forests beaming with sunlight. Amidst beach scenes bursting with jade, gold, and sunburned red is Fourth at Folly, in which she captures the holiday energy by placing focus on a group of sun-bathers, the celebrating crowds a blur of motion behind them.

But recently, her work has undergone a major change, notes Duncan. “I started using four times as much paint per piece. It takes longer to dry, allowing me to move it around a lot more.” Among the works that have come from this new technique are faintly abstract still lifes. “They’re more sophisticated in that the color palette is subdued—more calm and quiet than the rest of my work,” she says.

The 24-year-old Georgia native credits her mother and grandmother Jane for cultivating her artistic talent from a young age. In fact, it was Jane who hosted Duncan’s first art show in 2007. “She’s very traditional. I think my interests have pushed her to enjoy types of art that she had not exposed herself to. In turn, she’s pushed me to pursue my dream of being a full-time painter,” Duncan explains.

The artist realized that dream last summer when she quit her job waiting tables and gave up painting dog portraits. “I knew I had to put all my energy into my own work. That is where I would find my joy,” she says.

In turn, she found a livelihood and clients across the Southeast. Last January, Duncan had her first local solo show at James Island’s Costa and Williams Dental Health Care, whose walls boast an evolving array of art. Her work was recently picked up by King Street’s Atelier Gallery, and beginning this month, will be sold at Elizabeth Stuart Design.

“Teil has the ability to make the viewer long to exist in her landscapes,” says Redux executive director Janie Askew. “Walking in her dense forests or lush sands, we can be both mystified and comforted.”                      




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