Opening reception for the artist June 14
Theo Ganz Studio presents Vertical Landscapes, an exhibition of recent paintings by Susan English. Vertical Landscapes is on view at 149 Main St., Beacon, from June 14 through July 6, 2014, with an opening reception for the artist from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.
All of the work is polymer on panel with sizes ranging from 10 x 11 inches for a single panel, as in Red, 2014, to multiple-assembled panels up to 108 inches across as in Vertical Landscape, Black (8 x 108 inches). Noted art critic/historian Carter Ratcliff has written the introduction to the full-color catalogue the artist has produced and published in conjunction with the show, and calls her work “up-to-the moment descendants of the monochrome paintings that epitomize early modernism’s ideal of unified form.” More paintings are included in the catalogue than are in this exhibition. Photographs of the paintings are by Howard Goodman.
English has shown her work in New York City and widely throughout the Hudson Valley including, most recently, at Matteawan Gallery in Beacon in Elemental and UV Portfolio and at Ann Street Gallery in Newburgh in Abstraction: New Modernism. In the past, English exhibited with Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon and was a founding member of Collaborative Concepts. She presently lives and works in Cold Spring. The artist received her MFA in painting from Hunter College and studied ceramic sculpture as an undergraduate at Hamilton College.
The paintings here consist of luminous horizontal stretches of vertically assembled panels — the increments of color and progression across the wall become a landscape with no definitive point of entry. The viewer may start anywhere and go in any direction. One scans the horizon and makes several passes back and forth until one is secure that everything has been experienced. Yet with each pass something new is discovered: here the paint has pooled and thickened and darkened in color; over there, it has crackled and crinkled while setting and drying; what looks totally blue from over here, up closer, reveals a whisper of pink fringe along the edges. The viewer will experience different colors, textures and surfaces depending on where they are in relationship to the painting. The nuances of experience are unending.
Landscape becomes the artist’s essential defining muse and there is an intuitive distillation of that awareness and sensitivity in these new works. The surfaces become as important as any other element — as one “walks” through the painting, the light either enhances details or reveals new ones previously undetected. The variety and juxtaposition of color and surface (glossy against mat, transparent next to opaque) keeps the viewer moving through the landscape and doubling back to take another look. In her statement the artist describes her habit of walking in the woods and observing variations in light, temperature and weather within the same outing. English writes she is “amazed at how the same walk is absolutely different — a simple shift in orientation radicalizes what I see and experience.”
The process of arriving at any one completed panel — not painting just one panel — is time consuming and requires multiple pourings of a pigmented medium — each a different color — with each coat drying in between. Aware that the paint wrapping over the edges of a panel may produce a pattern and color as interesting as anything else, English will, at times, incorporate that edge into the work at hand. When one multiplies this process by the number of panels within any one given painting, the viewer begins to understand what she means when she states: “Color is what drives me more than anything.”
Photos courtesy Theo Ganz Studio