|Articles : Providence Journal | Jamestown Journal | Providence Monthly|
Can’t shake the winter blahs? Then check out 'Fields
of Color,' a bright, blossomy series of paintings by Paula Martiesian
at Providence’s Bert Gallery.
If you have not been to the Newport Art Museum to see its current offerings, then drop what you are doing and go ... now! or as close to the moment as you read this that time will allow. You will be in the presence of the warmth and comfort of greatness.
In the spacious Ilgenfritz Gallery are the painter Paula Martiesian's 17 canvases of flowers, gardens, and trees entitled 'It's a Jungle Out There.' The title is apt, for it was beyond my expectations to be so visually assaulted on entering the room. Says the painter, 'I am a person seduced by color and addicted to tubes of paint... Color in all its infinite variations is the air I breathe.' Gosh, I wish I said that.
Martiesian's oils explore the relationship between nature and color, and present us, at first blush, a view of landscape unfettered and gardens unkempt. Her colors are bold, applied in sweeps and splashes, in tiny squares and sturdy lines, in semi-transparent washes and dense opacities. Yet these paintings are intricate and organized, their perfect composition belying their overt disorder. I feel the clash of the spirits of landscape and color-rich Post-Impressionist school of Fauvists, such as Matisse, Van Gogh and Cezanne, and that of the rigorous nonrepresentational abstract expressionists.
The accompanying notes tell us that Martiesian frequently changes her applications, seemingly arguing with herself over her choices, scraping off paint to make changes. Yet it doesn't seem so. The work appears spontaneous, but governed by a disciplined and decisive hand. And this is not a gloomy, threatening view of nature; rather it is optimistic, joyful and, at times, witty.
I particularly like 'Rose and Silk,' a depiction of a few deftly articulated red roses captured beneath the suffused color and warmth of sunlight passing through the autumn yellow foliage. 'Prospect Street' is a canvas full of bright patches of browns, reds, pinks, and oranges, as a backdrop to a sinuous tree. 'Pomfret, Vermont' is a portrait of a spreading and swaying, fully-leafed tree that could be grotesque was it not for its lively good humor. But really, I could pick out any one of them, for so cohesive are the works that there is not a misstep in the lot.
Generally speaking, I don't give much thought to frames; they are mostly unobtrusive or decorative add-ons. Martiesian, however, affixes her paintings to flat, painted plywood, hung on long horizontal panels of woven garden fabric, enhancing the outdoor feel of her work. On the plywood panels are strips of window screen surrounding the canvases. This seems to transform the gallery into her sunroom. In effect, we are presented with something more than a look at her work. We are invited to share her vision, to really stand behind her eyes. It is a gift to the viewer, and an unusually welcoming effect.
I was alone in the gallery the morning I went. After walking the walls, absorbing the paintings one by one, I walked to the center of the room, and slowly turned, a 360 degree rotation. Again ... once more. It became a sensation of walking through the woods, but with a marvelously kaleidoscopic feel.
The exhibit by Paula Martiesian, entitled 'Fields of Color,' features a recent body of work completed over the past eighteen months by this Providence-based painter and arts activist. Martiesian paints the landscape, absent of any human "enhancements." Her work is about color and nature, purity of form with a keen sense of placing on the canvas what it is she wants us to know about the subject before us.
The exhibition is comprised of approximately eleven pieces, all oils on linen, all of which are pushing the edge of abstraction, recalling the artist’s encounter and recollection of the landscape rather than presenting the viewer with an accurate rendition of the scene at hand. In these paintings, there exists a deep saturation and vibrancy of color that transcends the individual elements and objects depicted in the work, produced through the unique vision of this artist.