Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “Kate McGloughlin

Approaches to Abstracting a Landscape Painting

The specifics of how to create a less literal landscape painting seem to be a constant topic of discussion with my students, especially those who don’t come from an art-school background where the artist spends formative years in the mix, constantly exploring or discussing different ways of making art.

I have previously written about the toggle between formal concerns and storytelling in representational work in the following post:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/narrative-and-abstraction-in-representational-painting/

And about pure abstraction in this post discussing the shows of Ellsworth Kelly, Jenny Nelson, and Melinda Stickney-Gibson:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/three-abstract-artists-ellsworth-kelly-jenny-nelson-and-melinda-stickney-gibson/

Stepping further into how to break down this discussion, I see that most non-realist landscape painters are combining several ways of achieving this, and that the methods fall broadly into the two categories of what you choose to paint (and leave out) and how you choose to paint it.

In the image selection arena, the artist can either choose a view that had reduced detail for an open, minimalist landscape, or a macro view that has a prominent pattern —-for example, a rock cliff , sundappled water, or a glen of tree trunks.

The tools that the artist then employs in the painting process to emphasize abstraction can include simplifying, flattening, or distorting the shapes: reducing the amount of elements included; changing naturalistic color to non-literal choices; and/or unifying the surface with brushstroke or other technique to create overall  texture or pattern.

I have selected pieces from a number of contemporary artists who explore this terrain, many of whom I know or am friends with. In most cases artists are combining several of the approaches mentioned above, using pictoral tools that we, in this generation, have been fortunate enough to inherit and absorb from centuries of painting. The contemporary landscape painter then draws from the smorgasbord that art history provides and, putting it all in a sort of personal artistic blender, comes forth (usually over time) with their own version of the abstracted landscape.

Because the combinations are personal and often subtle, I have chosen to discuss each painting on its own merits rather than sift them into the categories introduced above.

I should add that I love gestural and color field abstract painting and generally am not so interested in realist landscape work. But having long ago chosen for myself a stylistic swath that lands somewhere in the middle, I find these explorations to be endlessly exciting, both in my own studio and in the work of other artists.

 

Stuart Shils, Fields near Ballycastle I,

Stuart Shils, Fields near Ballycastle I, 6.5″x7″.

I couldn’t resist selecting this piece of Stuart Shils, as I have also painted this dramatic locale in Western Ireland. It is just clear enough that in foreground we have farm fields, but the second shape is so peculiar that the mind could read it as abstract. So, by choosing to paint this bit of cliff that wends its way out into the Atlantic in a long curve, the artist has chosen subject matter that lends itself to abstraction and has also painted it in a broad, loose, and painterly way, emphasizing the color field aspect of the shapes within.

 

Deborah Munson, "Sparkle Square", pastel on paper.

Deborah Quinn-Munson, “Sparkle Square”, 12″x12″, pastel on paper.

Deborah has selected as her subject matter in this painting broad areas —and only two–that lend themselves to a patterned surface. It is key to the painterly beauty of “Sparkle Square” that the flecks of reflected light are varied in placement and shape, as are the shallow waves and subtly shifting color. Mystery is created by the dark shape of the shore. This is an example of the artist both selecting an image that is abstract in its simplicity and rhythm, and enhancing those aspects in the surface treatment.

 

Hannah Bureau, "Windham", 30"x30".

Hannah Bureau, “Windham”, 30″x30″.

Hannah, who also paints pure abstraction, selects material for her landscapes that has a feel that suits her sense of shape—squared off rhythmic forms that repeat within simple divisions of sky and land. In “Windham” I love the way the sky is so different from the ground—the sky like a Rothko and the ground a de Stael. At the same time, the mind reads them perfectly as an ethereal sky and cultivated sweep of land.

 

Eric Aho, "Ice Field",

Eric Aho, “Ice Field”, 80″x100″.

In Eric Aho’s ice series, the view is more pulled in than expansive, creating opportunity for very strong compositions that play with the formal elements of shape and line within a reduced color composition. The black shapes have depth when the eye reads them as descriptive—cracks in the ice leading to water below—but also emphasize the directionality of the fractured shapes as they point toward each other and the center of the piece. My eye delights in the play of shapes with this piece every bit as much as it does with a completely abstract painting.

 

"Blue Tidal Pool", 20"x24".

Christie Scheele, “Blue Tidal Pool”, 20″x24″.

As I have long influenced by the mid-century generation of American color field painters, this piece of mine reads as near abstraction, sitting on top of the picture plane almost before it reads as landscape. My selection of tidal flats as subject matter—already so stark and minimalist—is the starting point, enhanced by flattened shapes with subtle variations in color but no descriptive textural detail. The strong horizon evokes a vista, but turn this piece on its side and you have an abstract painting.

 

 

Wolf Kahn, "Orange Radiance",

Wolf Kahn, “Orange Radiance”,

Brighter-than-literal color is not of itself abstract, but combined with the simple fields of color that Wolf Kahn is known for creates a painting that sits right up on the surface plane. In addition to his famous barns, Wolf has also worked extensively with the repeated motif of tree trunks moving across the canvas, creating the patterned effect discussed above. In some paintings this is a more regular and more pronounced repetition, but I particularly liked the color in this piece and the way that the folliage is treated as diffuse scrubs of color. Look carefully, though, and you can see that as soft-edged as these shapes are, they are very particular, varied, and elegant.

 

 

 

Arnold Levine,

Arnold Levine, “Waves at Jenner”, 16″x20″.

“Waves at Jenner” uses brush stroke to create both an energetic expressive field and at the same time capture the feel of big surf crashing on rock, all of this using low-key, tonalist color. To my eye, the mind reads the scene perfectly for what/where it is, but the white strokes are actually more abstract than descriptive, sitting up on the surface of the picture plane. Arnold works in both abstraction and landscape painting, and this piece falls beautifully somewhere close to the middle of that spectrum…but rather closer to abstraction.

 

Heather Bruce, Sea #3, 14"x16".

Heather Bruce, Sea #3, 14″x16″.

Heather very much starts with the first strategy, reducing the content not only by choosing the simplest sea and sky imagery but also by eliminating detail within that. The subject is just recognizable, mostly because of the horizon and the gleams of light in the sky. The color is dense and murky–and also gorgeous—evoking one of those heavy weather days, but even more so a color field painting that sits on top of the scumbled and blended surface.

 

Jeorg Dressler, "Outlook

Jeorg Dressler, “Outlook XVI”, 18″x36″.

In “Outlook XVI”, as in other work by this artist, the soft blend is a wet-into-wet technique starting with a little more detail than many of the pieces discussed here. The surface is so heavily blended, however, that the subject matter takes a back seat and the viewer’s attention is brought to the movement that Jeorg made to achieve this effect. The result, in a descriptive sense, feels both like moving weather and as if we are witnessing the scene from a moving vehicle. As a whole, the technique crates both dreamy narrative and energetic abstraction.

 

Steve Dininno, "Boardwalk,

Steve Dininno, “Boardwalk, 7″x9”.

This monoprint of Steve Dininno’s is a study in monochromatic color and and reduced detail. To abstract an urban view—a scene that is inherently busy—certain light/weather phenomena are generally employed. In this case the image is being swallowed in fog, allowing the graphic elements to swim out of its implied depth even as the lines of perspective lead the eye forward into the scene. That there is so much interest in “Boardwalk” while at the same time so much empty space is a clear demonstration of the power of the less-is-more phenomenon, when skillfully done.

 

Donald Elder, "Untitled Landscape #0154, 12"x16".

Donald Elder, “Untitled Landscape #0154, 12″x16”.

These trees and, I presume, a light pole, are about as un-fussy as they could be. They, and the blended and scumbled surface relate to the Wolf Kahn piece. However, the eye here is funneled back in space, much like in the Steve Dininno above, and the analogous color composition is quietly moody. The foreground blacks help anchor the piece, creating contrast within the otherwise low-light scene. This piece balances beautifully between capturing the mood of a moment and place and pure, delicious painting.

 

Kate McGoughlin,

Kate McGoughlin, “Winter Sky Ashokan”, 8″x8″.

In this piece Kate uses surface texture to work the sky into a color field that is only just recognizable as a cloud bank. The shape of the shore is simplified, color exaggerated, though she did create a juicy reflection–so much a part of the land-into-water visual experience. The water is quieter than the sky, as is often the case. The white line that was scratched into the pigment on the left is a lovely graphic element that is entirely non-literal. Examining the elements, there is clear back and forth between those that are more descriptive of the scene and those that are more abstract.

 

Thomas Sarrantonio, "Transition",

Thomas Sarrantonio, “Transition”, 50″x60″.

Thomas is doing several painterly things in this piece that move it away from realism. There is clear patterning and brush stroke both in the field and the sky above that break up the surface into rhythmic abstraction. Combined with the soft band of fog in the middle distance,  this creates a duo perception of paint sitting on top of the picture plane and a recognizable field/sky with atmospheric perspective. The relative symmetry of this image also illustrates the point that when a painter reduces the number of elements, those that remain hold an enhanced interest.

 

Staats Fasoldt,

Staats Fasoldt, “Fair Street”, 11″x14″.

Staats is a master at relating shapes and creating light. Similar to my aesthetic, the number of shapes tend to be reduced and surface of them flattened, but the outlines of the shapes themselves have a good deal of subtle variation. In this piece, the paint handling within the shapes is also beautifully varied, the strip of light in a way that describes light itself and the shapes within the buildings in a more abstract manner. The blur on the left encroaching on the foreground building also seems to be more about the movement of the watercolor than about any recognizable visual phenomenon.

On the whole, what makes these all good paintings is that they are successful in capturing both the feel of the scene depicted and the surface, compositional, and color interest of pure painting, allowing the viewer to delight in both aspects. As for all painting, drawing ability is essential, since the artist needs the hand to do what the eye requires; creating dynamic compositions made of compelling—and usually highly edited— shapes, palettes, and surface.

Occasionally, there is an element that is barely or not quite recognizable…but interesting or gorgeous. My comment to my students when this emerges in their work is “I don’t know what that is…but I really like it so I don’t care”.  This observation would apply to the irregular light shape on the right in the Fasoldt piece and the field in the Sarrantonio. In many of the other pieces, there is an element or shape that we think is probably this or that…but we are not sure: the cliff in the Shils; the dark shore in the Munson; the orange band in the Kahn—field or hill?; the tidal pool in my piece; the light pole in the Elder, and so on. These mysteries serve to create complex interest as the mind works to accept the mixed metaphor that they provide.

 


 

I would like to mention the galleries that I share with many of these artists: Julie Haller Gallery in Provincetown, MA; Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck, NY; Gold Gallery in Boston’s South End; and Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury VT–check them out to see additional work!

 

 


15: Artists from Ulster County—A group show at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck

I am co-curating a show at my gallery in Rhinebeck, using this blog post as an ongoing site for information about the show. I am a participating artist  in “15” as well.

Keep checking back for additional news, press, and photos. We have selected outstanding work from these stellar artists, and expect this exhibition to be a bright light in our late winter.

How do the light-infused geometric abstractions of Heather Hutchison exhibit in the same show with Lenny Kislin’s antique assemblages?  How does Bernard Gerson’s mysterious photograph of two faces connect to Yale Epstein’s luminously rendered mixed media paintings?  15: Artists of Ulster County looks at just this exploration.

15 will be at Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck from February 18 to April 22, 2012. It brings back and expands on the show that exhibited at Brooklyn Artists Gym Gallery last May, 2011.  This time around, curators Christie Scheele and Peter Wallace have added artists and pieces.  As they selected the paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculptures, they discovered something exciting:

“When we first invited artists to participate in our show last year, we were going for eclectic, and did not anticipate the complex connections that emerged between the artists. What we found was that we had uncovered a kind of Ven diagram of artistic endeavor in the Hudson Valley. Each artist was having a hidden conversation with at least three others in the group. It was like a creative game of  ‘telephone,’ where the end does resemble the beginning in delightful ways.”

From Polly M. Law’s edgy, doll-like figures to Chris Hawkins iconic children’s worlds, from Kim Alderman’s smoke-fired ceramic totems to Meredith Rosier’s densely atmospheric drawings, there is a journey to this show with a point of entry for any viewer.  The fifteen artists in this exhibition represent, with the highest level of achievement and creative edge, the same wide range of artistic expression that is available in the entire region.

Meredith Rosier

When I commence upon the exploration of marks and their subsequent densities, I am investigating containment and dispersal. Density arrives from the layering of pigments pushed through metal screening, coarse or delicate fabrics and handmade stencils as I employ unexpected hand tools in order to interlock my materials. I utilize sawdust, dirt, rust, smoke, fireplace ash, pastel, gouache, ink, graphite, pencil and conte crayon. I intend to seam tiers of pigment to one another until the density contradicts the notion that paper lies beneath. Deliberately working within a restrained palette, I aim for an intimation of phosphorescence from my pigments and a dialogue between the indeterminate and the exactitude of my forms.”


Polly M. Law

 “I make paper dolls with deep personal issues. I use humble materials but elevate them with my attention to color, form, costume, expression and gesture. I sometimes incorporate materials scavenged from the natural world. Sometimes I incorporate my deep love of language in the form of type and visual/verbal puns.”

Leslie Bender

“I’m always known for psychological high motion figures reacting in an environment such as beach or restaurant, but I have also drawn and painted from life for 4 decades. Continually practicing the formal elements strengthens the artist’s work exponentially.
Paint and its manipulative faculties is as fascinating as studying from life::: here is volume and paint, all smooshed into one!” 

“Still Life Pedestal #2″, Oil on canvas, 20″X30”.

Kim Alderman

“My 40 plus years of forming clay into functional and sculptural objects has given me an experience of relational consciousness: I form clay and clay forms me, I move clay and clay moves me. The skin of the earth and my skin are both breathing organs of perception and as such, we share dna and an emotional body, we share voice and imagination. This relationship is critical to my work as an artist and teacher, and the inspiration for my book MOON TIME: Receiving Images of Feminine Consciousness through Clay, Drawing, and Word.”

Heather Hutchison

“For the past 23 years I’ve been following one particular line of inquiry; the use of natural light, captured and inflected, as my primary material. In that time, these works have gone gradually from being somewhat translucent and heavily constructed, to being nearly completely transparent, and appearing to float upon the wall.
In my pieces that are as much light sculpture as painting, the viewer is presented with the opportunity to directly experience the scientific truism that the only constant is change. Striving to maximize my medium’s literal transparency in order to attain the greatest self- illumination, natural light is as essential to me as any other material I employ; it literally animates my work with its ever-changing nature.”

Christie Scheele

“A variety of landscape imagery, color, and format expresses a range of my interests, allowing me to combine my contemporary art training with my love of the natural world in differing degrees from piece to piece, emphasizing in one a sense of place, and in another alternative concepts that refer to the process of making art. Common to them all is my use of minimalist compositions, with strong interlocking shapes, and the silky surfaces I achieve by layering delicate coats of paint, relating my work to other contemporary artists who use photographs for inspiration.

Kate McGloughlin

“In the winter months, I keep myself engaged with the landscape by making large format monotype collages.  
Bouncing off of sweeping passages of etching ink with pastel and recycled prints has become a pretty standard
methodology in my studio, and I appreciate the time and space this work gives me to design a meaningful composition without
the time pressure of the setting sun.”

Bernard Gerson

“Rather than copying subjects literally, I create my images with a more abstract quality and attempt to transform them into a vehicle of emotion and sensuality.  In the landscapes and cityscapes, I use light, texture and movement, as a painter would, to achieve a softer impressionistic effect. In the portrait series, the theme I try to convey is not related to the individual person, but rather to something more universal in humanity.”

Tom Luciano

Judy Sigunick

“I began making my most recent ceramic figures after 2003 when I heard the story of a young college student and peace activist Rachel Corrie who traveled to Gaza . While acting as a human shield to protect a local Palestinian’s home from demolition by the Israeli Defense Forces, she was crushed by a bulldozer, while the house remained intact. This event was seminal for me and from that moment on I vowed to be as candid and thoughtful in my work, as Rachel Corrie was brave and trusting in her actions.”

Anique Taylor

   THE TRAVELER SERIES is about the personal journeys of women;
how we are in different ways, inadvertent, reluctant pilgrims. Chemical
sensitivities have necessitated inventing personal processes that excluded
accepted methods of working. I developed a process of alternating casein
paints, colored pencils and matt medium in successive layers – drawing back
into lino prints, watercolors, and computer fragments with archival pens and pencils.
Heads are sculpted with 20-30 layers of newspaper interspersed with assorted
resins & glues after which facial expressions are delicately built up in several layers
with archival pencils.This gives them a beingness, like silent partners to our growth
who understand our intricacies. In this way they are psychological portraits of who
we are and what we are trying to become.

       “THE TRAVELER SERIES is about the personal journeys of women; how we are in different ways, inadvertent, reluctant pilgrims.

“Tamar Lost”, from the Good Girl series, mixed media, 32″X16″.

Mark Kanter

“My work begins with printing ink or paint applied and manipulated on Plexiglas until a
structure and/or image suggests itself. It is then mono-printed by hand onto paper, canvas
or panel, reversing the image and causing various accidents to occur. The underlying
structure I build in the first phase of each piece opens to new suggestions, which I then
pursue in paint; adding, subtracting and inflecting what survives until a cohesive whole is
forged.”

Chris Hawkins

“In my new paintings the dialogue is visceral manipulation of personal icons; the composites ape dream in the gardens of law and religion.  Although the characters may be uncertain, they are incisive as villains against tampered knowledge.  As the soils are tilled, in innocence they look for mercy in values and essentials.”

Yale Epstein

“These works came about by allowing  gestural, calligraphic marks (as ” made up” language), to become integrated with elements of the art processes, and to take on the forms that seem appropriate. The completed images are a result of my attempt to leave a lot of openness to the emerging graphic directions, and the emotional implications of the works, as they were evolving. In this similar vein, the paintings are not to be ‘understood’ by the rational mind, but to be experienced as visual/emotional entities on their own terms. Yet inevitably, the viewer will add to the mix, their own personal reactive processes and perspective.”

Lenny Kislin

“I have been selling unusual antiques since 1973. In the course of hunting for interesting objects to sell, I came across many pieces which were not so salable, but because of their forms, uniqueness, or rarity I was intrigued to the extent that I bought them anyway. I have saved these objects through the years with the intent of eventually finding a way to enable others to see what I saw in them.
In 1991, I began to physically join these forms into conceptual and narrative art objects that I felt utilized them to their best advantages. What you see here in these pieces is the fruit of my passion for these here-to-fore under-appreciated objects.”

“Mindless Vanity”, mixed media assemblage, 22.5″x27.5″x10″.

Rosalind Robertson’s striking work was in our show at BAG, but when it came time to organize the new show, we were not able to contact her.  So, we went ahead with the new artists and ended up with the number 15…announcements went out…studio visits arranged…blog assembled.

Happily, she  called me several weeks back having returned to her Woodstock home, ready to pick up her career. Since we have come too far with our “15” to insert her retroactively into the PR, we are delighted to include her as a sort of grandfathered addition to the show. We will have work of hers at ASFA, two of which you can view below.

“103”, ink on paper with sea water, 30″X20″.

“Regarding these paintings, it is my policy to add nothing to what comes out of the water, except my signature, as a partner. And then to sit back and contemplate the meaning of the imagery.

The ingredients?  

1. First find an ocean

2. Research appropriate materials 

 3. Test materials

  1. Keep inks warm, avoid coagulation
  2. 300lb paper to withstand rough handling
  3. Drive 5 hours to nearest Ocean
  4. Find safe beach access
  5. Pour pigments onto paper and quickly
  6. Put on boots and walk into the water

“104”, ink on paper and sea water, 30″X20″.

Some Studio Shots from our Visits

Peter and Meredith in her studio.

Kate and Peter in her studio.

Leslie and Peter in her studio.

Heather and Christie in Heather’s studio.

Peter in Heather’s studio.

 

 

Show of 15 Ulster County artists in Rhinebeck

Posted by Paul Smart on February 17, 2012 in ArtEvents

Tom Luciano, who lives outside Phoenicia and runs a top-shelf antiques shop in Hudson, came out of SUNY-Purchase’s Art program like a bolt a while back. I remember when he remade my garage into a studio for his work. Gradually, his paying work, marriage, parenthood and other matters crowded his attention – until he found a means of capturing the world around him digitally, on a daily basis, that combined meditation with creativity. Daily postings on Facebook reestablished a market for his work, which in turn prompted deeper explorations. Now, Luciano will be amongst a group of 15 Ulster County artists being brought together by regional gallery pioneer Albert Shahinian at his new pair of spaces in the middle of Rhinebeck.

Actually, “revived” is more the theme of this expansive exhibition, which first surfaced last May at the Brooklyn Artists’ Gym (BAG), when BAG founder and director Peter Wallace joined forces with Chichester-based painter Christie Scheele to create a New York City showcase for a cross-section of Ulster County’s mid- and late-career artists working in such diverse media as painting, printwork, photography, ceramics, assemblage and mixed media. Now, as Scheele brings her baby to her longstanding gallerist’s new haunts, with Kim Alderman, Leslie Bender, Yale Epstein, Bernard Gerson, Chris Hawkins, Heather Hutchison, Mark Kanter, Lenny Kislin, Polly M. Law, Tom Luciano, Kate McGloughlin, Meredith Rosier, Judy Sigunick and Anique Taylor in tow, along with Scheele’s singular work, it turns out that about half have shown with Shahinian before – either in Rhinebeck or at his earlier galleries in Poughkeepsie and Hudson.

“When we first invited artists to participate in our show last year, we were going for eclectic, and did not anticipate the complex connections that emerged between the artists. We found that we had uncovered a kind of Venn diagram of artistic endeavors in the Hudson Valley,” the curators have remarked on their creation and its new genesis. “15 looks to explore the layered relationships between the exhibit’s selections. How do the light-infused geometric abstractions of Heather Hutchison inhabit the same space with Lenny Kislin’s antique assemblages? How does Bernard Gerson’s mysterious photograph of two faces connect to Yale Epstein’s luminously rendered mixed-media paintings? From Polly M. Law’s edgy, doll-like figures to Chris Hawkins’ iconic children’s worlds, from Kim Alderman’s smoke-fired ceramic totems to Meredith Rosier’s densely atmospheric drawings, there is a journey to this show with a point of entry for any viewer.”

Me, I’m looking forward to seeing Kanter’s epic drawings in such a setting, as well as McGloughlin’s earthy prints and paintings and Sigunick’s witty, warm ceramics – and Luciano’s vividly thoughtful observations (and ruminations). Talk about that adage about getting away to appreciate what one has!

With an opening reception this Saturday evening, February 18 all over the center of Rhinebeck, we’re relishing the chance to catch up with so many favorite Ulster artists at once – and coming back while it all stays up past the Passover and Easter holidays, until April 22. The reception’s set to run from 5 to 7 p.m. at Albert Shahinian Fine Art’s Upstairs Galleries at 22 East Market Street, as well as the ASFA@ Prudential/Serls Prime Properties space at 6384 Mill Street (Route 9). Hours are Thursdays through Sundays. For further information, call (845) 876-7578 or visit http://www.shahinianfineart.com.