Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Experiential painting

I traveled to the Portland Museum of Art this past Sunday to view the exhibition, "John Marin, Modernism at Midcentury".
Anyone who is drawn to the intense forces at work along Maine's rugged coastline, this is the painter for you. Just name a few adjectives to describe the coastline i.e., turbulent, frothy, excitement, choppy, clashing and these words are expressed in Marin's paintings. Marin's interest lays in all things that clash, the push and pull, the calm and energized or as he collectively names it, 'modernist dissonance'. His expressive brushwork and color vitality offers the viewer an emotional and descriptive, symbolic experience of the sea and coastline.
While contemplating the exhibit, I recalled a summer course I had taken, given by Natalie Alper at the Museum School. I enrolled in hopes of strengthening my plein air painting. After showing her a few samples of my work, she told me to forget about them. "Tomorrow, bring with you a bigger palette a larger substrate and big, big brushes like house painting brushes". She instructed me to paint what I knew and BIG.
Water became my theme. And what came pouring out on paper was a wellspring of personal experience: beaver dams, rushing streams, tree shadows on a frozen tundra, waterfalls. The images I called forth with my large brushes were numerous and captured a joyous celebration of nature. Because there was no need for photographic references or to be physically placed in open air surrounded by Nature herself, this type of painting experience was liberating.
Viewing John Marin's paintings, I too can feel his experiential excitement as he painted the waters as he knew them.

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