Every artist knows that there is no such thing as “freedom” in art. The first thing an artist does when he begins a new work is to lay down the barriers and limitations; he decides upon a certain composition, a certain key, a certain relation of creatures or objects to each other. He is never free, and the more splendid his imagination, the more intense his feeling, the farther he goes from general truth and general emotion.
Nobody can paint the sun. or sunlight. He can only paint the tricks that shadows play with it, or what it does to forms. He cannot even paint those relations of light and shade - he can only paint some emotion they give him, some man-made arrangement of them that happens to give him personal delight - a conception of clouds over distant mesas (or over the towers of St. Sulpice) that makes one nerve in him thrill and tremble. At bottom all he can give you is the thrill of his own poor little nerve - the projection in paint of a fleeting pleasure in a certain combination of form and color as temporary and almost as physical as a taste on the tongue. - Willa Cather
Susan Schwalb uses the classical Renaissance technique of silverpoint and metalpoint in a way which challenges the traditional concepts. Her work is abstract and her handling of the medium has become increasingly bold.
The works on paper juxtapose a wide variety of metals (silver, gold, brass, copper, platinum, pewter, bronze, and aluminum) to obtain soft shifts in tone and color reminiscent of the transparency of watercolor. A shimmering luminosity creates what often appears to be a 3-dimensional undulating surface. By contrast, the paintings focus on color and the silverpoint drawing becomes more of an element of structure; in these works on wood panels, drawing and painting are fused. Susan applies several layers of paint, using different colors, after which she draws with the metalpoint. Then erases part of the surface with sandpaper to expose the paint underneath. Often she adds additional paint and drawing to intensify the layered effect. The paintings seem to float on the wall, and a luminosity begins to emerge from somewhere in the interior, at times creating an aura of reflected light, at times appearing to evoke memories or afterimages.
Ms. Schwalb will be featured in our summer show “Line” as well as having her solo show with us in the fall.