Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nocturne Light

In Nocturne LIght there is a shadow and night and there is falling light splitting the large area of shadow. Night, a somber key but much going on: the life of the night behind the darkness. Something beautiful about the word nocturne; dark and complex, it evokes night and music.  I have heard it called melancholy... the contrast with light. The many shades of dark are predominantly velvety blacks and blues, yet present is the ochre red of dirt or blood and an intense white. In Susana Amundaraín's work, the presence of the paint is always important.
The tactility, the paintness of paint. How we know it’s paint. What the eye feels when it sees paint. What the brush feels. The inherent beauty in the material. Paint and painting, in which form, color, gesture/movement and the spectrum of opacity to transparency is allied so naturally that the viewer responds to a deepness, not a depiction. In fact, one of the reasons Amundaraín’s paintings are so powerful is because they reside on the border of imagination where we see both the cloud and the face in the cloud, the moon and the rabbit in the moon. A layering of subtle washes of color upon color gives the darkness dimension and generates a feeling of power in the watcher. In the movement of light and shadow is that feeling one sometimes gets before a storm—a massing of power—not power directed, but power conjoined with the force of nature… almost a joy.
Still, in Nocturne LIght, there is a sense of place –enough of the texture of the elements, rock, sky, water to take us there without the need to know exactly what place, exactly where.
The dimensions of the painting (8’ by 4’) make the viewer feel as if she is standing behind a canyon wall in shadow looking into the bright falling light. In this painting, as in many of Amundaraín’s works, the geography of the Americas, sparsely populated, and with the open field of plains or desert, is present. You have to go through large open spaces to get to the geographical wonders themselves. In the case of Angel Falls in Venezuela (a sacred space to the artist) you must go through jungle into a sublime geography, the place in the mind that’s high desert, to find this affinity that is not awe, but as if you were yourself desert or waterfall.
A spear of cobalt extends downward into a crevasse. We peer from behind the wall, into the light on the left, where, more organically, the angles and curves are cut as water cuts, into light then into shadow then dissolving into mist or the arc of a prism. Below the mist, a red splinter as if water is still falling, farther down and further away. Amundaraín’s intuitive placement of the bright touches: white, a salmon red, and blue where cobalt brightens almost to sky, shifts our perspective from place to color to place. The characteristic warm darks, the blues, indigo, cobalt and the effortless layering of paint like desert varnish on a canyon wall. The walls can be looming or sheltering— the water life-giving or the plunge of it…death.  Seldom in painting is such ontic clarity present and speaking.
Nocturne as music. Chopin, Liszt. This Nocturne has some of those elements we have come to associate with music, a feeling tinged by living, knowledge which encompasses a sadness as well. Power, joy and sadness live in this painting. But it is not depressing. It’s wise and beautiful and human.
Looking into a picture frame at a landscape painting takes you out of your world; you go there. Looking into Nocturne Light, you are already there, where it’s deep and necessary.