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COLOR CONTROL

THE PAINTINGS OF DEIRDRE SOLIN 

There exist certain elements of painterly description which are so central to the rigor of artifice that they have flowed from one art form into all the rest, even into contemporary technology which allows us a further degree of reflection upon the idiosyncrasies of the natural world such as digital media. Such elements are so essential to the practice of art that we cannot imagine art not having them, nor a world that can be described without them. Most central among these is Color. Just to say the word itself is to speak volumes, while at the same time to be separated from adequate knowledge as needed to explore its capacity for meaning. In the paintings of Dee Solin we encounter an obsessive engagement with color that operates in the stylistic milieu of painters like Julian Stanczak, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Alfred Jensen, and Bridget Riley. Each of these artists attended to color and structure not as naturally opposed aspects of the same experiential, phenomenological universe, but as sections of a system qualified only by the idiosyncrasy of intuition.

Color is, in effect, the speculative order of the known universe. We cannot describe the world without it, and we cannot even imagine life without it either. We could allude to scale--we could even describe an object in minute detail, with exacting precision, but in the absence of color it would be nearly impossible to say Tree, Sky, or Sea. Color in the abstract is something else altogether, for without the utility of verisimilitude, painting becomes more about making a statement, about exploring forms, giving rise to an innate dynamism, and in some way alluding to nature and the concrete or metaphysical elements by which it is organized. Artists such as Willem De Kooning, Bradley Walker-Tomlin, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandisky have accomplished similar constructions, in which the amassment of minute particulars, reduced in individuality yet vastly multiplied and organized around a formal or spatial concept that aptly describes how art contributes to the quality and variety of aesthetic experience. Beauty itself cannot be used to construct an entire universe, but it can aid us in achieving a more enlightened world view.


Phenomenas, 2013, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches
 

Each of the paintings that Solin has made since circa 2009 adds something to her oeuvre. In “Phenomenas” Solin paints a canvas filled with white rectangular forms that resemble sheets of paper floating down from the sky. These sheets are splayed out in an alternating pattern that resembles the crystalline forms of falling snow, and they gather ever more tightly toward the center of the canvas which is painted with incandescent yellows, at if these blank glyphs were the minute yet infinite particles of physical matter rushing like moths toward a very immense flame. A similar work is “Eyes Wide Open” in which the particles are more square and less accumulated, and they alternate between shades of pink, pale purple, and gray-blue shale hovering over a red sky that burns orange at its center.


In “Black Magic” Solin turns her iconographic glyphs into a chromatic veneer that both illuminates and partially obscures the details of a work which hints at a degree of verisimilitude. The supposed scene in his painting suggests the wreckage of a downed or crashed airplane, sitting half in shadow and half in sunshine. The upper of the two dark forms suggests a military helicopter in flight. Whether any real situation is in evidence, the mere suggestion of one is enough to start the viewer’s mind racing into all sorts of narratives.

Sea of Remembering, 2013, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches


Her glyphs are most overt in a painting titled “Sea of Remembering” in which they stand as the whole of the formal arrangement. In this case they resemble colored confetti or fragments of leaves from trees. Here we see them as actually possessing detail, a cartoonlike movement, and a certain charismatic weight. They are painted over a background that is black at its base and gradually lightens through shades of grey until finally becoming a radiant white.



Crimson Odyssey, 2013, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches

In “Crimson Odyssey” we are presented with a new breed of painterliness, for which Solin first painted the background, which ranges from white to purple, and is laid over with a thick and bright lattice using a scarlet red. Like “Phenomenas” it is arranged centrally, and in the middle pulses the alien glow of some cosmic body, attracting much smaller and darker colored fragments, glyphs dragged out of the overall composition and into the core, where they will never be seen again.


In Dreams I Wish, 2013, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches


In two other canvases an oppositional aesthetic is likewise achieved, with an amassment of the glyphs yet in formal terms that depart from the works above. “Twilight Path” and “In Dreams I Wish” are both covered from edge to edge with glyphs, with not even enough breathing room between them, operating on two other principles: their interaction with one another, stuffing the visual area of the canvas with competing reds, yellows, and blue; and simultaneously breaking against larger forms such as a Seusslike arabesque of an icily depicted ribbon that bends and flows from the top of the image to the bottom, and in the second with silhouettes of spheres also with icelike contours.


Yellow River Rocking, 2013, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 inches


Solin’s brand new works depart from all of these with the exception of “Black Magic” due to a color use that borders on both dramaturgy and symbolism, inferring a natural scene that carries with it a moody yet prismatic quality. Works in this group include Yellow River Rocking, Stairway to Heaven and The Tempest. Gone are the glyphs, gone is the central organization and the symbolic reckoning with natural forms beyond the reach of the everyday. Solin has already begun to develop a new model for understanding how color speculates while the rational mind does its best to fill in the gaps of causal knowledge with phenomena of meaning. Color doesn’t only take up space, it controls how we see and what we know.

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