Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Athol Dickson's The Opposite of Art ~ Reviewed

The Opposite of Art
By Athol Dickson
Published by Howard books
ISBN# 978-1-4165-8348-6
362 pages

Back Cover:

A poor woman in a shabby Los Angeles apartment receives an original oil painting by one of modern art’s great masters, easily worth half a million dollars. Although the artist has been dead for a quarter century, the painting appears to have been recently completed. When the world’s foremost authority on the artist’s work pronounces it authentic, three lives are destined to collide: the sketch artist and roustabout at a traveling Mexican circus who longs to paint the face of God, the daughter the sketch artist does not know he has, and the man who plans to kill them both.


Athol lets the reader experience his passion and love of art through the life of his main character, Sheridan Ridler, Artist extraordinaire. This author pens an honest, gritty story of an artist tormented by love and his quest to find the Glory he experienced and paint it, in vivid detail so others could experience it too.

Athol Dickson tackles serious issues in the middle of a compelling dramatic mystery using the art field as the back drop. I was thankful to receive a review copy of this profound and moving story. Athol’s a deep thinker and so is his character Ridler. I enjoyed the author’s passion for art which shown through on every page and his colorful array of characters. Somewhere in search of power, money, and love - All of them desired peace and meaning for their mixed up lives.

This author lets the reader experience Ridler’s younger years with pot parties, and free love. Everything was ok in the art world, according to Ridler. He was a genius and could paint anything he put his mind to. One thing he refused to paint was faces. Ridler says, “I don’t paint peoples faces, because the paintings are about me. What I’m trying to work out. What I want to understand. If I gave them faces, it would be about the models.”

Ridler felt art was an honest expression of the soul--it also reflected life through his eyes. One night tragedy strikes. Ridler experiences something that changes him and the way he paints forever. He never sees things or life the same. He wakes up and is compelled to paint what he's seen! Problem is it's a little foggy right now. He's not quite sure of everything he saw and experienced. Ridler embarks on a journey kind of like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz when she wakes up in a strange and magical land in search of home. He's passionate in his hunt for God and desire to experience the glory. It's not as easy as following the yellow brick road. There’d be no rest for him until he found the image - gaze at it longer and hard to capture all it's splendor.

Ridler’s search takes him all around the globe, experiencing many types of religions in hopes of discovering the one true God. He's compelled to paint the glory he can't remember exactly.. He had to see it again- in order to paint it. But would he recognize this love, glory and innocence if he came upon it? That’s where his present meets his past life, life before the tragedy and the amazing experience. Why were people after him? All he ever wanted to do was paint what was on his heart! Was that a crime?

Athol takes the reader into the world of art, greed, murder and mystery when Ridler’s past meets his present! Athol does have some drug and alcohol references and sexual content that made me feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning of the story. There is no profanity--I would rate it PG 13. I knew the author wanted the reader to experience Ridler’s life, heart and mind along with his brilliant paintings in the early years.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Athol it won’t be the last. I liked Athol’s passion for art, his powerful
Link imagination and how he gets into the heart and mind of his characters. If you enjoy art, mysteries and a wild ride across time and the globe you’ll enjoy The Opposite of Art!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

Athol Dickson writes like no one else. He is a storyteller with impeccable timing and the ability to wend oddities and knowledge into the narrative of his books. His writing is compelling and at times beautiful, pregnant with meaning and symbolism and hidden truths about the human condition. Other times he paints less than flattering pictures that are as stark and as poignant as the beautiful scenes.

His characters are deep, though sometimes they are fleeting. Rich narrative introspection gives insight into a character’s drives and behaviors but still leaves the reader with plenty of unanswered questions to digest.

The Opposite of Art centerpiece is focused on a painter. A famous and tortured painter who trashes a relationship with the only person he’s ever loved. An accident leaves him presumed dead, and in a sense reborn. Gone is his selfish drive to feed his needs with women and drugs, it has been replaced with a yawning emptiness that leaves him exhausting himself trying to chase what he thinks might fill it. An epic spiritual journey spanning decades begins, and is told through stories and memories. Add to the palette, a young woman with father hunger, a man obsessed to possess what had belonged to the artist, and another seeking justice and peace.

Not a light read. Expect to need to put it down and ponder. Expect to be challenged. Though deeply spiritual, fans of traditional and tamer Christian Fiction may find some of the subject matter offensive. And those who want neatly buttoned up stories may find the ending frustrating. Also, this story is very literary, full of descriptions and lighter on action. If you like fast moving, action packed adventures, or a clear-cut Christian doctrine filled narrative you may want to dig a little deeper before purchasing.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

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