Thomas Sgouros’ paintings in the Remembered Landscapes series began in the early 1990s out of a deep dedication to painting and a willingness to change in the midst of an illustrious career established in realism. With the swift onset of macular degeneration, Sgouros was no longer able to render scenes from life so he used what he remembered to portray emotional landscapes. Using oil on linen, watercolor and pastel on paper, the ideas in the work began to shift from the earlier depiction of the possible landscape to the fantastic combinations of land and sky. Elements that celebrate the nucleus of the Remembered Landscapes paintings are illumination, abstraction, movement, relationship and atmosphere. The paintings are at once luminist, expressive and modern.
In these paintings, the artist recalled visions of light, reflection and atmosphere, all of which come to life on canvas in the same way as the abstracted paintings of J.M.W. Turner (English 1775-1851). Painterly tones of rich red, orange, white and blue juxtaposed with darker earth colors of brown and green all allude to the landscape. Surprising combinations of green sky with orange clouds or deep purple sky with dark blue clouds, liberate us from the typical use of color in landscape. As Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) stated, “Color is the language of the listening eye.” Light comes through darker foreground hues in Sgouros’ paintings, sometimes brilliant white or electric yellow, other times shocking orange or pink, which adds to the interplay of light and dark. Finally, the viewer can feel the movement, as opposed to still life, which is inherent in the Remembered Landscapes. Sweeping brushstrokes and dabs of paint all reflect fleeting moments of expansive sky meeting solid ground to create opposing views. Immediate and distant views transcend the confinement of the eye and speak to the spirit.
Maureen O’Brien, Curator of Painting and Sculpture, RISD Museum recounts in her lecture on the artist: He is fearless in his spin of the color wheel, alternately serene and ecstatic. He is never more marvelous than when he risks it all in a fiery explosion, the likes of which Turner witnessed in the burning of the houses of Parliament. Somehow, in the great orange and red skies of his recent oil paintings, the saturated heat of those pigments reads cool, as if Tom has distilled and then magnified the sensation of a sunset.
Thomas Sgouros’ career spanned over 56 years, as a renowned illustrator and a distinguished painter of sublime watercolors and still life canvases in his later career. Sgouros was a Professor Emeritus of the Rhode Island School of Design and recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts.