Current Exhibition: Room WIth A View: Essay

Room With A View 

The act of painting a window view is an unabashed celebration of the best of painting. Time, materiality, subjectivity, are all present in the narratives. There are few subjects more traditional to painting, and yet it has endless possibilities. A painting of a view outwards can carry with it a multitude of meaning, emotion, and visual/tactile pleasures. The window allows the painter to add air to the painting - wind even! - breathing life into the painting. 

The subject of the architectural window, can function as a metaphor or narrative element, a device to bring you into the scene, or to keep you just outside of it. Most of all it is a dialogue with the practice of painting, image making, and our practice of painting on (for the most part) a window frame stretched with canvas. Even cradled panels have a similar support system.  

The layers of space, textures, and framing are undeniably a painter’s language. When we approach a window and its frame, we look through rather than “at” it. This is an idea that goes back to the 15th century with Alberti and his comparison of the picture frame to the window frame- a place for creation and invention, using the techniques of perspective and representation to invent a world of one’s own. Similarly we do not tend to look at the window itself, but beyond the panes of glass, wood or metal frames and supports, into the depth of the outside world.  When looking “at” a painting one does not just look at the image, but into the painting, the surface, the actions and gestures of the painter, and into the content of the image and materials. 

The depiction of the window, and the room which hosts it, offers the artist invariable combinations, providing the possibility of simultaneous narratives, and allows for an experimentation within the tension between representation and abstraction.  The architectural divisions and boundaries of the window and interior become, for these artists, an opportunity for possibility and invention, rather than a constraint.  They emphasize, and are improved by, the variety of painting styles contained within each canvas.  

These timeless devices within painting allow the painters to contain or control wild areas, to frame and focus, to juxtapose, or set a stage. While the narratives and contents of each painting may vary from observational directness to narrative orchestrations, to conceptual staging, the paintings are all unabashedly paintings.   

For Kelly McRaven, the divisions become a way to isolate one type of painting from another, enclosing wild areas of foliage, chaotic cityscapes, with solidly painted walls or painted bricks.  Each element delivers its strength through its equal and opposite section - like the density of the walls compared to the wispy translucent curtain. 

Jason Mones uses the window to develop a similar quality of variety by using light to highlight the texture of the curtain versus the nearly abstracted silhouettes of the figure and cat, creating a curious narrative about to occur. 

Dustin Metz leans more toward abstraction than the rest, pushing the variety with which paint can describe a surface or space.  We are left within his invented world of painterly discovery.  The approach to light feels playful, as his moves relate more to the canvas than the original image, or viewed space. He literally allows the painting to provide its own sources of light and dark in ways that are art times illogical, yet completely believable. 

George Rush uses his windows to set the stage for these conceptually organized still lives and scenarios which feel eerily quiet, and carefully orchestrated.  The window views range from a believable real scale, to one that becomes an abstraction of shadows into geometric variety, which intensify the air and light quality of the set up.  

Catherine Haggarty comes from a place which feels straight forward, yet contains a narrative of sentimentality, memory, and introspective meanderings.  Light and shadow play in this realm as ghosts of people, stories, and experiences.   

Jennifer Packer diverges from her usual figures and portraits here to paint a wall of windows, which includes a small fan to create the presence of breath, life, and motion.  The sensual and loving approach to color and touch here make the scene seem as though someone should be present, or that their absence is profoundly felt through the intimacy of her focus. 

Emil Robinson provides a view at almost only the interior of the space. The doors/windows only allude to something frequently dark, and very mysterious - especially in comparison to the lush surfaces and optical play of the invented spaces. The yellow example even references the structure of a canvas’s stretchers and supportive braces. 

Aubrey Levinthal uses the window here, as she does many other objects, to create a painterly surface of the mundane or daily. These objects are made interesting through the direct and tactile qualities of her surface, brushstroke, and drawing.