British artist Stephen Sumner paints landscapes of memory. In his minimalist oil and latex on linen paintings, the artist suggests the world of memory, the realms of imagination, and mirages, where content is revealed through only the subtlest nuances of light and color.
Described as an intellectual colorist for his atmospheric oil landscapes rendered in cloudy shades of blue, in his current solo show, “An Odd Turn of Phase,” at Paris’ Galerie Agnès Monplaisir, Sumner seems to reject color altogether, presenting a suite of untitled works in which brushstrokes in shades of white and gray fill jet black canvases. These cross-hatchings and undulating waves of pigment provide the most basic elements to suggest the artist’s inner world of memory, with hints of intangible moments like dissipating smoke, the sensation of speed, the ocean at night or the crest of a mountain. Here, however, only the most dramatic of highlights remain visible amid the darkness.
With his pared-down visual vocabulary, Sumner’s work evokes the most ethereal of sensations. The eye travels through the paintings along his brushstrokes, delighting as he deposits paint with varying opacity, obscuring or revealing the surface below. The artist’s hand is evident in each mark as its density changes in its journey across the plane.
Painting from his own memory, Sumner leaves his subject matter undefined, allowing the viewer to create their own connections to the imagery at hand, or to simply explore and enjoy the work’s painterly qualities.