Tom Betts American, b. 1977

Tom Betts’ exquisitely rendered teacups undoubtedly fit into the tradition of realist painting, but there is far more at work here than what meets the eye. Adding deep layers of meaning and metaphor to the cups and saucers that dominate his oil paintings, the Salt Lake City–based artist takes realism to sophisticated new levels, successfully employing figuration to capture more elusive concepts, such as the nature of existence, in a way more commonly achieved through abstraction.

For his first solo show at Dawson Cole Fine Art, Betts presented fifteen paintings from three recent series. His handling of light, color, texture, and composition is as compelling as that of the most accomplished academic painters of the past. Observing his subjects from both life and photographs, he carefully captures nuances of light and shadow, line and form to create atmospheric images that lure the viewer in with their mysterious subjects: single or multiple porcelain cups and saucers. But these works, of course, are not just vehicles to display his expert handling of paint and well-trained eye. Rather, for Betts, each represents a different temporal state, present, past, and future, which in turn work to visually articulate an intangible aspect of existence.