Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

“Mutable/Immutable”: Solo Show at Chace-Randall Gallery

mu·ta·ble
ˈmyo͞otəbəl/
adjective

1.
liable to change.
“the mutable nature of fashion”
synonyms: changeable, variable, varying, fluctuating, shifting, inconsistent,unpredictable, inconstant, fickle, uneven, unstable, protean.
This word is by far the more important of the two, though oddly the less well understood.

im·mu·ta·ble
iˈmyo͞otəbəl/
adjective

1.
unchanging over time or unable to be changed.
“an immutable fact”
synonyms: fixed, set, rigid, inflexible, permanent, established, carved in stone.

 

Affinity/Winter Sunset, 36"x48", $6,500.

“Affinity/Winter Sunset”, 36″x48″, 2014.

 

This body of work explores themes of change and the eternal in the landscape, nature revealing the mutable and the immutable.

Fleeting moments of weather and light have long been my focus. Time of day or year and interplay with clouds; light and shadow on landforms or water; and serious weather events continue to visually intrigue and inspire, making no two scenes alike.

Beyond the always shifting moments of dramatic or calm atmospherics and the impact of humankind on the land is also,  however, the immutable. However changing, the earth has always been there for us.

Our source of nourishment in every way, our lands, rivers and seas are the visual imprint that I work from every day, every week, and every year. Attempting not to judge but rather to see, I adapt imagery that is only sometimes  classically beautiful. The paintings then become another immutable, as I have distilled that image into a moment of time, offering it to others for contemplation.

The work in the show

Choosing the piece that will go on the postcard for a solo show is always a juggle. Generally speaking, though, the artist and galleriest select a piece that is not only a stand-out painting, but also sits stylistically and thematically near the center of the body of work,  thus representing it well. We settled on “Turquoise Light”, below.

"Turquoise Light" , 30"x40", 2014.

“Turquoise Light” , 30″x40″, 2014.

Often when there is water in an image, I work the detail of waves and currents just enough so that it reads as such, preferring to let the eye skim over the water and settle on other spots in the painting.

One consideration is similar to having a field in the foreground: where is the viewer in this scene? If the water, marsh or field start basically at the viewer’s feet, there needs to be more foreground detail or vignetting than if the picture plane starts further off.

In “Turquoise Light”, we are sitting (in our boat, presumably!) right on the water, which is a major focus of the piece.  Far from encouraging the viewer past it, the water catches the eye with an array of subtle color shifts, reflections, and movement. When I paint an area with this much complexity I look at it as an abstract painting, surrendering to the process.

I also enjoyed that the sky and water are so different, even though clearly the sky is throwing light on the water.

MountainRoad:Fireflies

“Mountain Road/Fireflies”, 30″x20″, 2013. (Sold)

One of the last pieces that I finished in 2013, the vertical movement in “Mountain Road/Fireflies” plays with the implied movement of the car headlights coming towards us. These solitary scenes of rural roads evoke a common experience, often creating a sense both of looking at the car and being in it. With the vertical format and complex sky, I am drawing attention to how the mountains don’t always block the sky—they can lead our eye to it.

 

"Intervening Space", 20"X20".

“Intervening Space”, 20″X20″, 2014.

The square format of “Intervening Space” is echoed in the composition, which leads the eye back into the painting with every shape and line. There is also a back-and-forth between the painterly illusion of depth created by arial perspective that draws the eye toward the distant hills, and the feel that the composition and relatively flat shapes create of the whole painting being right up on the picture plane.

I love playing with those two ways of experiencing a painting, counterbalancing the illusion of space in a landscape with the reminder that this is also a two-dimensional, abstract object comprised of areas of color.

For more discussion of the narrative and the abstract, see my post on the topic:https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/narrative-and-abstraction-in-representational-painting/

"Mountain Sky with Mists", 24"x30".

“Mountain Sky with Mists”, 24″x30″, 2014.

An interpretation of the view from the fire tower on Overlook Mountain, “Mountain Mists with Sky” reveals the transitory and the solid. Fog is a beloved subject, shifting even faster than clouds, and mountains feel eternal even if, geologically, they are not.

 

Mists from Palmer Hill, 12"X36", 2014.

Mists from Palmer Hill, 12″X36″, 2014.

The farm fields that you see from Route #28 at the base of Palmer Hill in Andes are a favorite subject of mine, and no show at Chace-Randall is complete without some fresh version of this scene. In the interpretation above, we are in a lovely misty summer day, rain and fog just beginning to lift but still obscuring a mountain that rises behind the horizon of the fields.

 

"Interwoven Stories", 30"x60", 2014.

“Interwoven Stories”, 30″x60″, 2014.

This is a  most amazing view, looking Southeast as you summit Palmer Hill coming from Andes. I have painted it only once before, some years back, quite differently.
Fortunately, since I work from a combination of imagination, memory, and photographic reference, I could access all of these, since there are now many trees blocking a full view of the fields.
Of special interest is the way that the sky and the fields interact, creating the illusion both of motion that extends the scene beyond the canvas, and a compositional directionality that pulls the eye toward the center line of the mountains.

 

"Memory's Waters", 16"x20", Cooper Lake in summer blue/greens.

“Memory’s Waters”, 16″x20″, 2013. (Sold)

Something about the depth of the reflections in
“Memory’s Waters” brings me back to moments of contemplating water during every summer I have ever known. I was also taken with the way the sun catches on the front shore on the right and then moves back into shadow on the left in this image of Cooper Lake in Woodstock.

 

Cloud over Shoreline, 12"X12".

“Cloud over Shoreline,” 12″X12″.

A dark cloud in front of the sun over the Hudson River shoreline. These high-contrast images are both brooding and ethereal.

 

Sunlit Sandflats, 12"X12", 2014.

“Sunlit Sandflats”, 12″X12″, 2014.

While for my shows in Andes I mostly focus on our gorgeous local mountain/river/farm field imagery, I always like to include a few pieces that interpret other locales. This small piece was inspired by a photo that owner/director Zoe took from her favorite beach in Florida, and evokes for me the sandflats of mid-Cape Cod, where I spend so much time in the summer.

 

Stormy Sea, 12"X12".

Stormy Sea, 12″X12″.

The most minimalist piece in the show, and very low contrast. I love exploring this terrain.

 

"Affinity/Return at Dusk", 12"x24".

“Affinity/Return at Dusk”, 12″x24″, 2014.

We are often coming into the Roundout Creek from the Hudson at dusk after an afternoon in our small lake boat on the river. As a smaller estuary, the creek is smoother and reflects the sky stunningly (much like a tidal pool compared to the ocean), creating opportunity for the painter. A big fan of deep, dark blacks to create mystery and contrast, I love the sense of being surrounded by the shadows while moving along the softly sky-lit water.

 

Affinity:FlatlandsDrive, 18"x18".

“Affinity?Flatlands Drive”, 18″X18″.

Often with my Affinity Series I select imagery that has strong linear elements that relate to the frayed edges and overlaid gridding. This is clearly the case in “Affinity/Flatlands Drive”, the composition created by almost straight horizontal edges and two strong diagonals. If this were an abstract painting, the straight lines of the road coming off the picture plane on the lower left would be too harsh, but with the implied movement of the headlights coming toward the viewer as a narrative element, the road is instead a quirky plus.
"Affinity/Stepping Out", 8"X8". (Sold)

“Affinity/Stepping Out”, 8″X8″. (Sold)

"Affinity?Storm at Sea", 8"x8".

“Affinity?Storm at Sea”, 8″x8″.

“Affinity/Winter Sunset” (at top)  has similarly strong horizontal and diagonal shapes, with more emphasis on the interlocking wedge shapes that I love so much. (Shape preference can be as strong a personal choice as color for the painter.)

 

"Westerly Sky", 16"X20". A perfect example of the right angles and straight lines of the NYC foreground meshing with the soft diagonals of the sky.

“Westerly Sky”, 16″X20″.

I also like to include an urban landscape in my shows. “Westerly Sky” captures the view from lower Manhattan that I have painted a number of times,  along with another favorite view of the West Side Highway and Hudson River.

In abstract terms  the piece plays with the right angles and straight lines of the foreground buildings in strong silhouette interacting with the soft diagonals of the sky. The  foreground feels very stationary against the sweep of the clouds.

 

"White Light/ Red Light", 24"x24", (Courtesy Chace-Randall Gallery).

“White Light/ Red Light”, 24″x24″, 2014. (Sold by the gallery on 5/14.)

I finished this piece toward the end of a long, hard winter. And yet, I enjoyed myself immensely while painting this snowy scene, which explores how the snowstorm changes the light, both ambient and headlights/traffic lights. The way that the trees dissolve into texture in the background is unusual in my work, and echoes the treatment and shape of the manmade lights pulsing at the viewer, almost leaping off the picture plane.

 

"Soft Summer Greens", 30"X36", 2012.

“Soft Summer Greens”, 30″X36″, 2012.

“Soft Summer Greens”  captures the sunlit but desaturated color of a hazy summer day, using a complementary palette. it also, with the distant purple hills, creates a color bridge from the stronger summer greens that am using in some pieces in this show to the warmer palette of others, such as  “Sunlit Sandflats” and “White Light/Red Light”.
The landscape that we gaze at during any given moment has, in the vast majority of cases, changed repeatedly through geological and historical time.
Even during the time that I have been painting the landscape—24 years—trees have grown up to obscure a favorite view; floods and storms have changed a stream or shoreline; or a miniature golf course gets built in a gorgous field surrounded by mountains.
And yet, gazing at what lies outside of our doors brings us a sense of the eternal, allowing us access to our more grounded and connected selves.
In the end, both the mutable and the immutable in nature combine to form an experience that mesmerizes, stimulates, and soothes.

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