Painting Place: Two Artists Explore the Boundaries of the Painted Canvas

In “Mapping a Place: Paintings by Joe Piccillo and Lisa Pressman” at Susan Eley Fine Art, the two artists experiment with limitations by confining their work to a canvas, and employing only minimal color, form, and line. Both Piccillo and Pressman have recently simplified their artistic processes—Piccillo by reducing landscapes to precise bands of color and Pressman by using only paint, rather than incorporating collages, as she has done in previous works—and each has succeeded in conveying an abstract sense of place.

Piccillo’s early works are more in line with traditional landscape paintings, which relied on the artist’s technical skills as a painter. In his new compositions, Piccillo conveys the form of a tree or a horizon with dripping vertical or horizontal lines, using earth tones of onyx, taupe, and wheat that impart a sense of the outdoors. Piccillo finally achieves a glossy texture in his paintings by adding six to eight layers of glazed acrylic paint.

For Pressman—whose earlier collaged paintings incorporated layers of book, journal, and map pages, giving the work a historical context—the artistic process involves spiritual and emotional transformation, inspired by her experimentation with different materials. “My paintings begin as encounters with the evidence of time and change: shadows on a wall, tar marks on the street, the colors of fallen leaves,” she says. “In the studio, I respond to these experiences with a mark, a color, a word, a journal page, a gesture.” Over the past four or five years, Pressman has shifted to only making encaustic and oil paintings. She textures the canvases with thick coats of paint, and then scrapes away layers to reveal what’s underneath. According to the gallery, Pressman “considers her method a kind of excavation, revealing both the history of the painting itself, as well as her own intellectual and creative journey through the process of making an artwork.” The artists’ works complement one another in color, form, and in their parallel exploration of a new process.

Sola Agustsson 

Mapping a Place: Paintings by Joe Piccillo and Lisa Pressman” is on view at Susan Eley Fine Art, September 10–October 25, 2014.

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