Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Unknown Colour: Winfred Nicholson

Boat on a Stormy Sea, 1928-29

While I was on the residency in County Mayo, Ireland I was able to read one book cover to cover (usually with a baby on my lap), and while I thought I would read many like I would have in the days before Clyde, I am glad that if it could only be one it was this one: Unknown Colour Paintings, Letters and Writings by Winifred Nicholson.  A British painter, living in the English countryside, she spoke of the landscape, birds and sea that I was looking at out my window each morning.

Lilies and Moonlight, 1930


 I have always preferred her work to her much more famous painter ex-husband Ben Nicholson.  It is unsung, probably because she was a woman, and also because she was painting flowers and 'intimate' subjects.  But the work is masterful and the record of her thinking in these correspondences with Ben and painter friends (including Mondrian) illuminate the complexity she is contending with.

Sandpipers, Alnmouth, 1933


There is one essay that is not by Nicholson, but a close friend, poet Kathleen Raine.  She puts it this way: "Long before I met her -- it might have been in 1930 at the Leicester Galleries -- I visited an exhibition of Winifred Nicholson's work and asked myself who this painter might be, who knew things about flowers I thought only I knew.  This is something I have since come to realize that we each of us feel in the presence of a work of great imaginative purity.  We do not feel (of Shakespeare or Bach) 'How much more they know than I' but rather 'How did they know?'  So my wondering question was itself a recognition -- not as a judgment but in a pure response -- of an artist of rare truth. "

Winter Hyacinth, 1950s


..."Winifred's painting grew out of her life with complete naturalness and simplicity.  The day's painting was a kind of fragrance breathed by that day and no other, its imaginative essence, its heart.  Each painting has its special mood and atmosphere, some joyous and full of light, some thoughtful and autumnal, others wild and lonely as winter; but all are alike in saying, like a character in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, 'Time stand still now!'  Because each day's here and now is so fully present, it lives on.  There is something unfading about a fleeting present fully captured.


Glimpse Upon Waking, 1976

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Henri Hayden


I was reading through a monograph on a favorite painter, Mary Fedden, recently where Henri Hayden's work was mentioned this way:  "to domesticate the language of heroic cubism and bring it into a private conversation of familiar things."  

I thought that was so exactly what I love in many of the painter's work I love and also work I find overlooked at times.  Its not always cubism, but some larger consideration or movement of painting -- color, space, shape etc.  brought up against the intimate world of personal life and objects.  Bonnard dealing with post impressionist questions of color, Biala dealing modernist ideas of flattening the picture plane, Morandi's plastic concerns for placement, volumes and illusion.  To work out these things in the often dismissed subject matter of grapes and vases is such a feat, and a radical pleasure to behold them as a viewer.









Monday, June 12, 2017

Frame Work at Ortega Y Gasset

from left: George Rush, Jennifer Packer, Aubrey Levinthal

I'm home from Ireland and decompressing my thoughts on that. In the meantime, fab curator and painter Lauren Whearty put together a group show Frame Work at Ortega Y Gasset which opened June 3.  The good news is there is a closing reception too, scheduled for July 15th.  

She also put a digital adaptation of the show up at Curating Contemporary here.  

from left: Jason Mones, Jennifer Packer

I'm really looking forward to seeing the show in person.  Here's the press release:

Ortega y Gasset Projects is pleased to present Frame Work, a group exhibition of paintings curated by our newest Co-Director, Lauren Whearty. Artists in this exhibition include: Aubrey Levinthal, Kelly McRaven, Dustin Metz, Jason Mones, Jennifer Packer, Eleanor K. Ray and George Rush. 

The act of painting a window-view is an unabashed celebration of the best of painting. Time, materiality, subjectivity, are all present within the narratives. There are few subjects more traditional to painting, and yet it has endless possibilities. A painting of a view outwards can carry with it a multitude of meaning, emotion, and visual/tactile pleasures. Most of all it is a dialogue with the practice of painting, image making, and our practice of painting on (for the most part) a window frame stretched with canvas. 

Leon Battista Alberti asked his audience to perceive the painting, and its underlying structure, as a window itself. This 15th Century metaphor may seem antiquated, yet these artists show us that within this concept there is so much potential. Within Frame Work these settings range from those based on memory, to those directly observed, to inventions and reconstructions of ideal or imagined spaces.

Each artist works through this motif in order to dig deeper into their own practice. Kelly McRaven’s employs physical divisions as a way to use many styles or variations within one painting, while Jennifer Packer’s careful insertion of breath into each painting displays her touch and hints of air movement. Jason Mones employs narration in a figurative way, while George Rush implies it through much more subtle means. Dustin Metz and Aubrey Levinthal flirt with more gestural abstraction through their use of tactile experimentation and Eleanor Ray navigates memory through use of the grid and color to evoke light’s ethereal, emotional and temperature qualities.

When we approach a window and its frame, we look through rather than “at” it. The experience of a painting is a look into and through the surface, beyond the obvious, which allows for painterly metaphor, for any number of our experiences and reflections. These opportunities are what allow painting to transport us as artists and viewers. When looking “at” a painting one does not just look at the image, but into the painting - the surface, the actions and gestures of the painter - and into the content of the image and materials. The layers of space, textures, and framing are undeniably a painter’s language.


Kelly McRaven

Monday, May 1, 2017

Off to County Mayo



Sunday I'm off to a month long residency at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in County Mayo, Ireland.  Alex and I were in Ireland once for a weekend and in that short time I realized I needed to get back to paint.  There is a real magic to the place, the colors, the night sky.  The weather changes in a way that makes you aware you are at the top of the round earth.  It's pretty incredible.  We didn't make it quite as far north as County Mayo last time but experienced the Western coast (photo above from the Dingle peninsula).

The light and textures and shapes here are too good.

We fly into Dublin and stay in the same amazing Inn from a few years ago, then head off to the cottage and studio for the remainder of the trip.  I had no idea there would be a baby in tow when I received the grant but as long as we survive the plane ride, I think it should be a really perfect way to escape responsibility at home.  I've been back to work since 6 weeks and it has been brutal.  

Hoping to channel the spirit of some of my favorite painters that happen to be Irish: Pat Harris, Nick Miller and Helen O'Leary(who I studied with as an undergraduate and got me really thinking I could actually be a painter).   

Pat Harris, The Channel, 2015, oil on linen, 90 x 115 cm, courtesy of Taylor Galleries
Nick Miller, Nature and History II. 1998, oil on linen, 12 x 137 cm. Private collection, London





And of course looking forward to pints of beer milkshake (as we call Guiness yum).  I'll be off the grid for a bit and so looking forward to it...
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ceramicists I'm Looking At


I don't know that these three ceramicists have all that much in common except that I love the way the artists are using the material, the way their hand is so present in the making and the forms feel joyous.  

I was just in a show, Cakehole, at Mrs. Gallery which introduced me to this work by Robert Chamberlin.  These images have been grabbed from his website or instagram, which is a fantastic look into his studio and the making of these vessels.  




The work of Matt Wedel, below, I found directly through Instagram and also really enjoy looking at process and studio shots as well as finished work there.  I would love to see these in person, the scale is really large and sculptural for many of them.






Finally, I really love the work of Saskia Sutherland.  I can't find much digitally, these images below are courtesy of John Davis Gallery, but I first came across the work and still think about it in a show we were in at Queens College.  




I've been thinking a lot about what it would be like to make still life paintings from ceramics.  The shapes and colors in these pieces would keep me sustained for a long time.  I keep thinking too, what would it be like if a painter, like Morandi or Mary Fedden, had one of these objects snuck into their table set ups?  Need to find a ceramic artist to collaborate with...or a wad of cash to start a collection...


Monday, April 3, 2017

Group Show "Got Dressed in the Dark"



The talented and ever generous painter Emil Robinson put together a beautiful little group show in Dayton, Ohio touching on landscape as a theme.   The space is called Divisible, a project space organized by Jeffrey Cortland Jones, a professor at the University of Dayton.   I was honored to be invited to show, alongside some great painters:

Brett Baker, Raleigh North Carolina
Marla Sweitzer, Cincinnati Ohio
Aubrey Levinthal, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Eleanor Ray, New York New York
Catherine Richards, Cincinnati Ohio
Tyler Wilkinson, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Meghan Jean Kinder, San Francisco California
Scott Ramming, Cincinnati Ohio
Chris Peckham, Cincinnati Ohio
Rob Anderson, Cincinnati Ohio
Sean Oswald, Waco Texas
Suzanne Dittenber, Upland Indiana
Shaun Ellison, New York New York





Eleanor Ray

 





 

                Brett Baker                                                     Catherine Richards

from left: Marla Sweitzer, me, Eleanor Ray


Monday, March 27, 2017

Installation Images from 'Cake Hole' at Mrs.


Here are some beautiful installation shots from the show 'Cake Hole' at Mrs. Gallery which I discussed in a previous post.  Artists include Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, Robert Chamberlin, Caroline Wells Chandler, Jennifer Coates, Will Cotton, Gary Komarin, Aubrey Levinthal, Tracy Miller, Walter Robinson, Amy Stevens, Wayne Thiebaud and Mie Yim.  This is the final week to see it in person, here is a link to the gallery and you can see more detailed images of individual works on their instagram page.  The pieces I was asked to include are the two small cakes above.