Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lynne Campbell, Celia Reisman, and Christine Lafuente

Lynne Campbell and a series of her paintings

An interesting thing about this show is its frequent reference to nature, and how the artists relate to that subject in the way they paint.

All three are known to frequent Maine, but only two seem to use motifs from that landscape. In Christine Lafuente’s work, oil paintings of dashing brio imbue often quiet scenes with a passion and energy that upends the themes of gray with the thrill of painting. Seeing is as exciting as something very youthful in us, these paintings say, and they notice color as a blazon, as something startling and enlivening.

For Celia Reisman, scenes of Maine are a chance to create wonderful rhymes of shape, a chance to simplify form and detail into lovely abstractions that inter-relate across the painted surface. Neither painterly-ness, nor impasto, are her objectives, but a modest stepping away, a replacement of realism with something embroidered out of the real. If there are Platonic shapes and colors, then this is the artist of those. Her edges remember the lilt of line, emphasizing that we follow the way nature and human arrangements compare and contrast with each other, even in something as subtle as a house edge, a lily garden and the landscape beyond, which she holds together in a certain light and design.

For Lynne Campbell, the idea of Maine resides in not being there. She equates thinking of with simultaneity. Were she in Maine, she might well be thinking of a wildlife refuge near home, imagining how life goes on in a space we know, but cannot be present in, except by the reverie of painting. The sense of a movie, of time passing from one stage into another, interests her. Time is her distance. This is worth knowing, because it explains the duration and way of looking her paintings encourage. Like Haiku, they seem simple and brief, yet one lingers in their silent grace, appreciating the visible world we often over-number with details and thereby give up as chaos. To her the woods are woods, not single trees blinding us to the ensemble. And yet she picks a focus, and relates something to that. As in Celia’s paintings, and Christine’s, there is a relation between parts that makes us feel, in this case, the serenity of nature’s order.

To see like this, and for these reasons, we require artists as guides in the visual adventure of life on earth, and the life of our spirit.

John Sevcik

At Morpeth Contemporary
Hopewell, New Jersey
Since November and continuing within the Holiday small works show

Monday, January 11, 2010

Life and the City

Michael Bartmann next to one of his paintings

Michael Bartmann’s paintings at Rosenfeld Gallery this month reflect an ongoing interest in the architectural side-stories of modern urban landscape. These industrial spaces are often views of underpasses, or views from inside abandoned factories that open somehow. Both sorts of views share the idea that a wall both interrupts and opens to another space. In some cases his paint examines a wall as a means to express a certain slice of space itself.

His method of layering paint creates enigmatic distances punctuated by scratchings, scrapings, or thickly applied pigment. Amid the overall earth tone of these powerful yet quiet pieces there is a nice sense of color work, which leads one toward the light of day in some area of the painting.

This seems to confront an oppressive notion of confinement with release. The architectural element often presents us with a sort of Platonic ideal, which the overall tone and color work also seem to debate. Is this beautiful, or sublime? Is a repeating pattern of daylight cast in receding perspective depressing, or does the change in that light promise release and redemption?

In most cases the paintings also remind us of the structure of space, of how it outlasts usefulness, of how a sort of enigma remains behind in our midst capable of evoking the mathematical sublime. As sea shells have a beauty that outlasts their lives, these parts of a city have the noble imprint of some mighty purpose, capable of Roman arches, straight edges, and a function ultimately given over to transparency. What we are reminded of in the end is how daylight reclaims the man-made shadows of these constructions, as water does the confines of a shell.

Also on view are Thamer Dawood Sudani’s colorful abstractions that seem to narrate life force as a light filled with incipient symbols, language, and lamp-like exuberance. His family’s story of escape from Iraq gives these hopeful canvases a particular poignancy and heroism. They speak to the question of the invincible human spirit. Only one piece seems able to afford to place this exhilaration in the context of what must have been lost, but, in their way, both artists here deal with what can be dealt with in the appropriate timeline of their experience. In both cases we are surprised at the phenomenon of expression and experience, and moved by the power of the imagination to focus that experience at its most vital and necessary questions.

Until January 31, 2010

Michael Bartmann and Thamer Dawood Sudani at
Rosenfeld Gallery
113 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
215 922 1376