Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Susan Lichtman

She just might be my favorite painter. Ever. Tied with Velazquez. When I look at her paintings, and those of Sangram Majumdar, Mark Karnes, Stuart Shils, Katy Schneider, Ken Kewley, Edwin Dickinson, Gwen John, etc...oh! The color! The light and shadow! The color-value shifts, some subtle, some bold... And there is something so beautiful about how natural winter light and warm lamplight are bouncing around my house these days, it just makes me think of her wonderful interiors. Check out Lichtman's website, gallery page, and this write-up at Painting Perceptions:

"Her paintings often depict domestic scenes with a hint of narrative that are based on views from her home of many years. However, the most compelling subject is the marvelous inventions of light and color arrangements using flattened abstracted forms interacting in a potent visual drama.

"In a well written article in the August 2008 American Artist by John A. Parks there are a number of interesting quotes from the artist and observations the writer made that I’ll quote here:

"The artist’s narrative strategy, like her rendering approach, is one of hints and suggestions, rather than fully realized stories and perfectly turned forms. 'I used to love Mallarm√©’s quote that said you should suggest and not name, because that’s where the poetry lies,' she recalls. On the other hand, the artist does not let her paintings become too general. 'I’m trying to get mystery and specificity at the same time,' she adds, 'even though they seem to be quite opposite things.'

“For all the dramatic light in her work, Lichtman’s paintings are unified by a carefully controlled palette. 'To me, close-valued color is magical,' says the artist. 'It’s a way for the paint to imply the fiction of light and air. A palette of close values also gives the picture a kind of envelope into which everything is placed.' In order to achieve this end, the artist uses a very limited set of colors. 'For many years I used a palette of earth red, cobalt blue, cadmium yellow, and white,' she says. 'The darkest color I could mix was red and cobalt blue, so everything remained in a fairly narrow range, tonally. And because the cobalt easily gets overwhelmed by the red, the paintings tended to have a reddish tinge.'

“The artist also considers the overall decorative property of a picture achieved with a limited palette. 'I think my idea of beauty in painting has to do with the tension between the depiction of deep space and the properties of shape and surface,' she says. 'I see that tension in interior paintings of artists I love best, from Roman wall painting to De Hooch, Vuillard, Bonnard, and Gwen John. Sunlight or lamplight juxtaposed with shadows add to the complexity of shapes. I am interested in how light can divert attention away from figures and slow down the reading of the imagery.'”

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