Thursday, June 25, 2009

The elemental things - Sue McNally at the Newport Art Museum

After reading a review of the Sue McNally show in the local paper, I decided it was time to weigh in with my impressions of the show now up at the Newport Art Museum.

The first painting I saw on entering the gallery was Paradise at Night. Across the room the white spotlight effect of the moon on the dark canvas was definitely a Strange Attractor. I took quick glance around the gallery and was at first sorry that there were only 3 of these large paintings, along with 3 smaller ones. But, although the gallery is huge, it could hardly contain the energy of any more.

As I approached I discovered that, not only are the large paintings composed of 3 panels each, but within those panels are many other paintings to explore. This is not a quick show to see.

In the center of Paradise at Night, a speck of a buoy in the column of moonshine seems very tiny and far away, floating as it does below the luminous and translucent clouds that rise above it. Although diaphanous, they are clearly part of the immense atmosphere. A tiny line of breaking surf brings me back to earth and stylized waves pulse into the concave coast with a pattern like the ridges on a clamshell.

Unfortunately this is not a very good representation of the painting, but will give an idea of how it's laid out

In another painting, The Last Valley, Paradise Rocks, she succeeds in her stated goal to "place the viewer within the scene". The feeling seems more authentic because once there you encounter a barrier of brambles and thickets. It's passable, but not without planning a careful path, even then it's still a scramble, except maybe for a path over the rocks on the right side that leads, not down to the ocean, but to a side overlook which will give a different perspective on the valley.

Within this painting there are many more. In one, slabs of rock rise from the reeds and I get the impression that there is a frenetic activity going on there, perhaps small animals moving over its surface and burrowing about in the brush.

The brambles are also wonderful paintings in their own right.

I really enjoyed spending time with all the energy and color of this show. Somehow much more rewarding than the sterile, one-ironic-idea installations that are being served up to a "world ...sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things".

The show will be up till August 12 at the Newport Art Museum.

1 comment:

  1. I came here via your post on my blog. The Sun McNally show looks stunning and I wish I lived in your part of the country because I'd be there in a minute.
    Plus - great blog! I love visiting artist's blog and reading about all the different approaches to art and the artist's life.
    Ars Longa, Vita Brevis!


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