Abstract artist David French presents a different view of our Southern landscapes

David French/courtesy of Trager Contemporary Gallery

Reframing the Lowcountry

David French is an abstract artist on a mission to redefine Southern art in Charleston. His latest exhibition, Living Inside Color, opens at Trager Contemporary Gallery this Friday. It puts a great emphasis on one of French's favorite subjects: color.

French draws inspiration from the look and feel of the Charleston area, rather than picking out specific subjects. "The atmosphere, landscape, seashore, and local culture all come to play in this body of work," he explains. "I'm influenced by living near the water: light reflecting off the water, the water surface, the rippling of waves. That pattern and rhythm has been totally infused into my work."

French's love of local colors led him to research the history of the South's most famous color: indigo. "[In Charleston] I was struck by the history of art and the history of pigment and color. In this location it was a very significant industrial item and such a big part of our life today." French himself makes pigments and says he was awakened by the color when he moved to Charleston and learned its history.

"The atmosphere — the pinks and colors and lights on the surface of the water, the color of the sunset, the colors are amazing to me. I've visited some of the gardens [in Charleston] and they are just gorgeous, they're like Monet. It's quite beautiful, what's happening around here."

The colors in French's paintings have even gone as far as to inspire the bartenders at Trager Gallery's neighbor, Felix Cocktails et Cuisine, who will be featuring a French 75 cocktail at Felix the day of the reception. "This is the second cocktail they have made for me," says French. "The other is 'La Frenchie' which is inspired by one of my pink-ish paintings in the gallery called 'Pomegranate Molasses.'"

On a deeper level, French has a strong desire to set his abstract work apart from others. "I'm looking back in time and reinvesting in previous artistic movements such as minimalism. I'm looking through the current lens of postmodernism, addressing their arguments that help to end that form that I'm investing in."

Part of this philosophy involves recognizing issues with past artistic movements and their leaders. "They were exclusive, heavily invested in the male ego. My work is different. It's not based on mere taste, it has theoretical underpinnings," says French.

"There's lots of traditional work in [this] town and lots of abstraction in the world. I thank Kelly [of Trager Contemporary] for taking a risk and bringing in my work." Stepping back and looking at the broader picture, French says, "paintings themselves are emotional, very physical, and unafraid. They're bright, take in our world and location, our city, our state."

"Most abstraction looks good, that's not how I work," he says. "I've made paintings with my eyes closed. It's not about how I feel, I'm trying to actually isolate my ego from the making of my painting." French invites viewers to interpret his work in their own way. "Give the authorship to the viewer," as he says.

French's work will be on display at Trager Contemporary through March 30 with an opening reception on Fri. March 6, 5-8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will feature live music, refreshments, and cocktails from Felix Cocktails et Cuisine. French will speak about his work at the reception. For French's work, visit davidfrenchfineart.com or instagram.com/davidfrenchstudio.

Support the Charleston City Paper

We’ve been covering Charleston since 1997 and plan to be here with the latest and Best of Charleston for many years to come. In a time where local journalism is struggling, the City Paper is investing in the future of Charleston as a place where diverse, engaging views can flourish. We can't do it without our readers. If you'd like to support local, independent journalism:



The Citadel recruits an acting coach and a retired drill sergeant for Biloxi Blues

Vincent Harris

Fri. Oct. 30 – Sun. Nov. 17:30 p.m. (Fri. & Sat.), 3 p.m. (Sun.)$30, $20 (students)South of Broadway Theatre Co.(843) 745-0317southofbroadway.com If playwright Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical play Brighton Beach Memoirs is his Star Wars, think of 1984’s Biloxi Blues as his Empire Strikes Back. The play, set in 1945, tells the story of young Brooklynite […]


Before You Go: New cranes in N. Charleston; Positive rate tops 15%

South Carolina health officials reported 636 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday and 32 additional confirmed deaths.

Marcus Amaker, Charlton Singleton talk justice in music in new series

Charleston poet laureate Marcus Amaker and Charlton Singleton of Gullah band Ranky Tanky will release the first three episodes of their new series “Raising the Volume” on Oct. 28.

More than 1 million SC voters have already cast ballots

South Carolina is approaching half the total record turnout it saw in 2016 from absentee ballots alone with a little less than a week until the polls close for good. In total, nearly a third of registered voters in the state have already cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election. In 2016, 2.1 million votes […]

10/28 COVID-19 update: 15.5% positive, 636 cases; 32 deaths

COVID-19 updates: South Carolina health officials reported 636 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, with 32 additional confirmed deaths. With 4,096 tests on Wednesday, 15.5 percent came back positive. As of 1:48 p.m. Oct. 28, via S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control:Confirmed cases in S.C.:  165,477 (+636)Positive tests in Charleston County (total): 16,676 (+27)Negative tests in S.C.: 1,695,189Deaths in S.C. […]