Technique Tuesday: Surrealism

What is it?

Today we’re covering a fun topic that we’ve touched on somewhat before: Surrealism! Surrealism is an artistic and cultural movement that originated in Paris in the 1920’s, and established a genre that artists are still exploring today. The art historical movements of the early twentieth century are truly fascinating, but as this is just a blog post, I’ll do my best to give a brief explanation of Surrealism’s nascence. Following the first World War, an especially brutal experience for many countries around the world, a generation of both civilians and former soldiers were left disillusioned and emotionally scarred. Reality, which art had for so long sought after so desperately, was suddenly quite painful, and the opportunity to step back from that and explore a different, more internal world appealed to many creatives during this time. The field of psychology was also rapidly growing, and the theories of famous psychologists like Sigmund Freud, such as notions of the subconscious mind and dream analysis, were becoming widely known. Several French artists and writers were inspired by the idea that the subconscious contained answers to fix the broken world around them, and that representation of these ideas, so different from reality, could jar society out of some of the long-held beliefs and structures that had led to such damage. Therefore, these writers and artists began to create bizarre, illogical scenes that evoked aspects of dreams and un-reality and elements such as odd juxtaposition, strange changes of scale, and elements of pure fantasy.

Examples from art history:

One of the names that comes to everyone’s mind when Surrealism is mentioned is Salvador Dalí. Dalí was an eccentric Spanish painter whose combination of excellent, classically-based draftsmanship and bizarre, unsettling imagery has had a lasting impact on artists even today. Below are a few of Dalí’s best-known Surrealist works:

(left to right) Salvador Dalí, “Swans Reflecting Elephants,” “Caravan,” “The Persistence of Memory”

Many other artists, including writers, photographers, filmmakers, and musicians took part in the Surrealist movement, but the work of the Surrealist painters is what has arguably made the most lasting cultural impact. Here are a few more examples from artists Max Ernst and Rene Magritte:

(left to right) Max Ernst, “Napoleon in the Wilderness,” “The Elephant Celebes”; Rene Magritte, “The Lovers,” “Golconda”

While some Surrealist painters, like Ernst and Dalí, created images that were more fantastical, some, like Rene Magritte, painted oddly familiar, ordinary looking scenes that had a major twist to them, and often an unsettling one. This is one of the aims of Surrealism–to get you to think differently! For instance, we know that a mirror reflects what is in front of it, but what if that reality was twisted a bit? Well, this is a concept that has inspired some Principle Gallery artists, too!

(left) Rene Magritte, “Not to Be Reproduced”, (right) Louise Fenne, “Mirror Portrait No. 2”

Examples from Principle Gallery:

(left to right) Michele Kortbawi Wilk, “Who’s Afraid,” Laura E. Pritchett, “Projection,” Francis Livingston, “Mating Season”

Elements of Surrealism pop up in the work that we carry here at Principle Gallery, and it’s always a thrill to see the creativity these artists are expressing, as well as the reaction from the viewers. There are two artists who show primarily at our Charleston, South Carolina location who use elements of Surrealism quite often in their work– Karen Hollingsworth and Anna Wypych! Click any collage to see it larger!

(left to right) Karen Hollingsworth, “Depth,” “Voyagers,” “No Boundaries”

 

(left to right) Anna Wypych, “Sea Color,” “Steely Eyes,” “Giant Girl”

Check out these artists, and many more, on the website for Principle Gallery Charleston!

Technique Tuesdays: En Plein Air

Technique Tuesday en plein air

What is it?

Today’s Technique Tuesday topic takes us on a trip to the great outdoors as we explore the world of Plein Air painting. The term “en plein air” is a French expression that translates to “in the open air.” It is used to describe the technique of painting outdoors, with the subject in full view of the artist. Although these days many artists work in their studios, often with photographs as reference, many artists still love to paint en plein air–especially landscape artists! When a landscape is created outdoors, the artist is often able to capture the space, the air, and the light more accurately than they could from a photograph alone. The task of plein air painting can be a bit tricky, as artists have to deal with obstacles like unpredictable weather and shifting light throughout the day. Many artists truly enjoy the challenge, though.

Examples from art history:

Painting outdoors has been done for a very, very long time, but it was not until the mid-1800’s that it had a true boom in popularity. After the introduction of paint in tubes and the “box easel”, an easel with telescopic legs and some storage capacity, painting outdoors became a lot more convenient, and the Impressionists were among the first to take advantage of the fact. As the growing movement of Impressionism was largely focused on looser representations focusing on light and color, plein air painting was the perfect method. Impressionists like Pierre-August Renoir, Claude Monet, and Camille Pissarro took advantage of the plein air painting technique, and the popularity soon spread across Europe and the Americas. Check out this neat plein air painting done by American artist Winslow Homer in 1868– not only is this a plein air landscape itself, but it depicts several other artists working en plein air as well!

"Artists Sketching in the White Mountains" by Winslow Homer

“Artists Sketching in the White Mountains” by Winslow Homer

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Many, many of our artists at Principle Gallery have painted outdoors, but some of them make special effort to do as much of their work en plein air as possible, to give their landscapes a real sense of freshness and life. Sometimes, as it’s understandably easier, artists will paint en plein air and create small studies, then go back to their studios to create a larger version of the work. Either way, it’s often easy to sense when observing a landscape whether the artist used the plein air painting technique in their work; the paintings seem so realistic and fresh, you can almost smell the great outdoors! Here’s a collage of several Principle Gallery artists who delight in working en plein air. Click on the artists’ names in the list below to view more of their amazing work on our website!

Plein Air Collage

 

(Upper left) Bethanne Kinsella Cople: Bethanne is a great lover of the plein air painting technique. She travels all over the country to paint different outdoor vistas with her signature lush and loose brushstrokes, and has experienced all the ways plein air painting can be both exhilarating and tricky–and sometimes bizarre! Once, when on a plein air painting retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bethanne stepped away from her canvas for a few moments, only to turn around and find that an enormous bear had wandered up to inspect her work! (Not to worry, though, he soon moved along and Bethanne was safe.) Pictured: Bethanne Kinsella Cople’s “Tow’rd Some Far-Distant Wood”

(Upper middle) Lynn Boggess: As you may have noticed, we’ve just had an exhibition of Lynn’s work open this past week! It’s a great show, so be sure to click here if you haven’t yet checked it out. Lynn paints outdoors about three times a week in the woods of his native West Virginia, armed with canvas, paints, and cement trowels in lieu of palette knives, because they give him the flexibility he needs to create his vivid, thickly textured landscapes. Somewhat abstracted, though remarkably realistic at the same time, Lynn’s work has the true ability to make the viewer feel as though they’re truly out in the woods themselves. Pictured: crop of Lynn Boggess’s “2 January 2015”

(Upper right) Kevin Fitzgerald: Based on the eastern shore of Maryland, Kevin has some beautiful views right around him, so it’s no wonder that he enjoys taking advantage of them to create plein air works. Kevin often works in the method mentioned earlier, by creating smaller works en plein air and sometimes painting larger works in the studio based on those studies. Kevin’s work has an incredible sense of peace to it, as the colors and light are captured so beautifully at all different times of day and painted with a profound softness and grace. Keep an eye out, because we’re expecting a whole bunch of new paintings from Kevin within the next few weeks, as we prepare for his solo exhibition, opening March 20th! Pictured: Kevin Fitzgerald’s “Wheatfield Dawn”

(Lower left) Douglas Fryer: Currently based in central Utah, Douglas Fryer is well known for his incredible paintings, and his landscapes in particular. They have an ethereal, thoughtful quality to them that seems to at once capture a sense of stillness as well as the movement of the outdoors. Though he sometimes paints in the studio from photographs, Douglas excels at capturing landscapes en plein air, even occasionally participating in plein air competitions! His landscapes capture what he refers to as the “hidden poetry” in the places all around us, even those that may seem mundane at first glance. Pictured: Douglas Fryer’s “Autumn Memory, South Randolph”

(Lower middle) Gene Costanza: An artist who delights in the “painterly” application of oils, Gene focuses on a semi-Impressionistic portrayal of landscapes and man’s interaction with nature. Primarily self-taught, Gene shifted his career to painting after spending over 20 years in law enforcement. Using the discipline and patience developed during his time on the force, he now creates landscapes with a soft yet vivid atmosphere to them, inviting the viewer to “step into” the scene themselves. Gene will be part of a two-person exhibition called “Coastal Light,” coming up at Principle Gallery Charleston in March, so check out this link to see his new works! Pictured: crop of Gene Costanza’s “Winter Creek”

(Lower right) Sergio Roffo: Sergio Roffo was born in Italy, later immigrating with his family to Boston, MA. He currently resides on the Massachusetts coast, where he paints his incredible coastal landscapes and nautical scenes. With an elegance and freshness, Sergio captures the light and texture of his coastal environment in his beautiful paintings. Sergio will also be exhibiting with Gene Costanza in the upcoming “Coastal Light” exhibit at Principle Gallery Charleston next month–view it here! Pictured: crop of Sergio Roffo’s “Daily Catch”

 

The WPW Collector’s Preview is now available at the link below!

Women Painting Women : Collector’s Preview

SNEAK PEEK of all 86 paintings juried into 2014 WPW out of 743 international submissions, and also a few words from Guest Juror Allison Malfronte + Principle Gallery about the Women Painting Women movement – ENJOY!

 

“Life” by Scott Christensen

Sometimes a painting will come to the gallery and will elicit the same response from nearly every visitor when they first view it. In the case of “Life,” by Scott Christensen, that reaction is, “WOW.”

Below is the work, in all its beautiful framed glory, with Asher the gallery dog helping out as a reference for scale.

Collage 2 72

This grand, atmospheric landscape of the Georgia marshlands measures an impressive 70 inches by 70 inches, and that’s without the frame! The stunningly beautiful handcrafted wooden frame surrounding the painting brings its total dimensions to about 82 x 82. The stately and colossal nature of the work is just part of its incredible attraction.

The composition itself is lovely and carefully created, as is typical of Scott’s artwork. An instructor as well as a painter, Scott regularly emphasizes the importance of careful composition. His nuanced and wisely restrained color palette has also contributed to his status as one of America’s most respected and renowned landscape painters. “Life” is an excellent example of these qualities in Scott’s art, as the hushed color palette and inviting composition (especially at this large scale) create a mesmerizing effect on the viewer. Frequently-heard descriptors from viewers include words like poetic, ethereal, atmospheric, moody, magical, spellbinding, breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful, romantic, soft, serene– the list goes on and on.

When she saw the piece in Charleston, artist and blogger Barbara Stroud wrote a blog post about “Life” in which she said in praise, “I’m not kidding you when I say we walked into the room and stopped in our tracks. This painting is a stunner.” (You can read more here!) Formerly the M Gallery of Art, Principle Gallery Charleston originally showed this beauty, but we now have the honor of displaying it at our Alexandria gallery! For those of you near enough to us to visit, be assured that “Life” is one of those pieces that, while lovely in photographs, is worth enjoying in its full glory in person.

You can check out a cool video Scott Christensen made of the stages of progress on this work here!