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Posts Tagged ‘Charlene’

At first glance, this painting by Charlene W. may seem self- indulgent.  And it is, it is self-indulgent in the sense that it goes wild with color and transgresses against our sense of realism. Well—we’ve been here before—who cares about realism.  We’re not hired to document the Hapsburgs’s holdings in lumber.  We’re painting because we might stumble upon some way to document our sheer excitement at the sight of shapes and the way light plays on them—and the way colors play on canvas.  You can see that Charlene got into color.  She was standing on the Evanston Art Center’s grounds and looking at a cluster of trees.  Very ordinary trees, by the way, and none of them were blue or purple.  Nor were there nearly as many as she put into the painting.  She invented. She invented for the sake of color, rhythm and—let’s call it—exuberance.

The exuberance is, however, reined in by compositional restraint.  Notice the faint suggestion of a horizon at the top.  The tree trunks are all vertical; no tree is sinewy or leaning.  And then there’s the X formed by the yellow light going from upper left to lower right; and the repetition of the dark trunks on the lower left and then on the upper right which cause the eye to move up, from left to right.

And what does the dotted green line indicate?  It goes through the most prominent tree trunk and indicates the Golden Section.

Without these compositional elements,  the painting might very well look too riotous and non-communicative.  If you enjoy looking at it, it’s probably because it comes at you from both sides, the rational (structure) and the emotional (color and texture).

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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When André Derain painted this landscape in 1906, this is not what he saw.  The painting is called “The Turning Road, L’Estaque.”  That’s a town in southern France, I’ve been there and I can testify to the fact  that the trees there are not red and neither is the grass. It’s all green green green.

What Derain saw is closer to what Charlene W. saw when she painted three trees near the Evanston Art Center.  Tree trunks tend to be brownish-gray and grass is inevitably as green as grass.  This relentless greenness is one of the challenges of landscape painting. Not that we don’t like green.  On the contrary, the various shades of green in nature are cool, refreshing and relaxing.   We seek out such relaxing sites and it’s probably  why we like to sit on the porch and enjoy our lawns.

But the experience of a real landscape comes with the fresh scent of rain, perhaps, or a breeze  that makes us close our eyes in appreciation.  In a painting we don’t have these accompanying sensations.  All we have is a rectangle with color and shapes.  I can’t think of any painting that is as truly green as the landscape that inspired it.  And while we’ve had all blue paintings (Yves Klein), all black paintings (Ad Reinhardt) and all white paintings (Robert Ryman), I’ve never come across an all green painting.  Hmm, what is it about the color green…someone please make an all green painting so we can think about this more clearly.

Charlene, looking at all that green, turned to me and said, I want to have more color.  I showed her a book on Fauvism and she immediately recognized kindred spirits in that movement.  “Les Fauves” means “the wild beasts,”  an appellation attached to painters who showed their work in 1906 in Paris and shocked the dove-gray spats off the critics. Surely civilization as they knew it was coming to an end.  Well, it hasn’t and in my opinion has gotten a whole lot better in the past century.  One thing that’s improved, seems to me, is our love of color.

Charlene’s  landscape looks as if it were on fire.  Photosynthesis gives us the color green in vegetation, granted.  But in the larger picture, the oxygen that photosynthesis produces will become part of some combustion somewhere, maybe in your body—and your brain.  In your retina.  In your optic nerve.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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