I Am Here. Am I Here?, Forrest Formsma

February’s unseasonal weather made for plenty of unplanned exploratory outings. Oliver Colt and I had lunch at Locally Grown Gardens and decided to walk the Monon a little and explore the neighborhood. By complete coincidence, without knowing who Forrest Formsma was or that his show “I Am Here. Am I Here?” would be in the City Gallery for the month of March, we stumbled into his studio and gallery. Beautifully lit, we found Forrest working in his space surrounded by sizable paintings of tranquil harbors and radiant florals.

After an intense quickfire visit (and trust me, Formsma has a ton of practical studio knowledge and good stories), I planned a second meeting to hear about his City Gallery show. Because I love to connect painters, I brought Alicia Zanoni along for the visit; Forrest’s gallery is his studio and anyone who enters gets emerged in the upbeat schedule of projects, clients, and colleagues- we met muralist Jon Edwards on our arrival. The space on 54th is welcoming and full of eye candy, a fashionable, well finished gallery to explore and muse in.

Prominent were three Indianapolis scenes, moments from Formsma’s life that embody a sense of awareness; to stop on the idea of aesthetic beauty is to miss the point. Our city offers many moments of wonder and visual pleasure, but Forrest’s recent paintings have a slight somber pause in them. What do you call it while taking a relaxing stroll, and you find pause in the swelter of sunlight? The paintings for the City Gallery feign away from illustrations of Indianapolis, but are soaked in and radiate a fleeting day- they aren’t tied down… “The concept is a feeling of openness… From the eyes of a painter, if you’re constantly looking, are you there or not?” Forrest stated.

Forrest is an active representational painter, joining in conversation of what a plein air painting or still life done from observation can mean. There’s something about the way Forrest paints that leaves the surface juicy with brushstrokes. He doesn’t hold back, giving spaces a tactile thickness. I’m particularly drawn to some of his smaller paintings where the range of loose marks to tightly rendered form is immense. Forrest’s work invites the viewer to take part in his love of paint and form, to join in the sophisticated and boisterous pleasure that is manifest in the rigor of his practice.