Painting Our Internal Landscape

West Branch Gallery
Apr 24, 2015 8:52PM

“Subtle, Not Subtle,” on view through June 5, 2015, focuses on four artists whose work displays a delicate complexity that is easily overlooked by the casual viewer. Marc Civitarese, Helen Shulman, Jonathan Prince, and Janis Pozzi-Johnson invite the viewer to join them in the act of contemplation and to explore nuance and subtlety in artwork. These artists reward the viewer with a powerful experience; emotional earthquakes that are anything but subtle.

There is a wonderful back story to Helen Shulmanís paintings that isnít necessarily evident upon seeing the work. Shulman is inspired by the Hudson River School. “The stories of these artists affect me as much as their paintings”, she wrote in 2012. “It fascinates me to think of what our country was like when they were painting.” Shulman often bases her painting on one from the Hudson River School. “I always begin with a representational image. It gives me a chance to build a relationship with the blank panel. It is a starting point for composition, light and story. Although the resulting picture may bear little resemblance to the starting point, it, nonetheless, influences my thinking and artistic activity.”

Helen Shulman crafts paintings that engage the viewer in a quiet conversation about color and surface texture. The blue tones of Channels wrinkle and crackle on the surface of the painting. That the texture and composition of this painting is reminiscent of the earlier hard abstracts of Jules Olitski is a mere coincidence. The scratches and lines, the ebb of hues that suggest light, the crusty brown in the edges point to Shulmanís deeper purpose. These loose, gestural, and expressive paintings contain an undercurrent of spirituality and strong emotional overtones.

Unlike her beloved Hudson River School painters who sought to explore the American landscape with their paintings, Shulman, a professional psychotherapist by trade, is exploring the psyche, the emotional landscape of humanity. Art writer Meg Brazill explained, “A sense of landscape is central to many of these paintings, but they also convey and mirror an expansive interior landscape. This use of landscape is surely one of the ways Shulman lulls us into a comfortable place with her paintings. The persistent horizon line offers a place to rest, orienting us much as the actual horizon does on the open sea. Bright shapes open up the painting into a place beyond the painting, like a lookout spying a new world.” That new world is our heart and mind.

"Subtle, Not Subtle: Evocative Nature" is on view at West Branch Gallery Feb. 28th - Jun. 3rd. 

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West Branch Gallery