Carol Sears: Recent Linescapes
May 23 to July 11, 2015
By MEGAN ABRAHAMS, JUL. 2015
Art may begin with a simple doodle, a raw idea -- the blueprint, roadmap or precursor to a drawing, a formal study for an ultimate vision. For Carol Sears, the genesis of her recent paintings is a linear record -- in essence, a doodle -- capturing the artist’s visual stream of consciousness. In her work, the raw doodle is refined, amplified, infused with color and elevated to a level of balanced sophistication.
Linescapes is a fitting descriptor for this body of work. For Sears, the process begins with a line drawing in graphite, directly on the canvas. Allowing her pencil to wander, the eventual network of lines gathers dynamic momentum, traveling around on the white ground, suggesting subtle abstract shapes -- sometimes with incidental figurative features -- which overlap and intersect. In the second phase, Sears begins the process of systematically applying paint, creating new forms and relationships between line and color. The previously ambiguous lines demark the contours of the ultimate negative and positive forms the artist describes, sometimes combined with white space, to create the effect of a map built upon the original network of lines.
It may be accidental that the paintings connote relief maps of the provinces of an imagined state; but in a symbolic way, her work reflects the light, color and vast vistas and space of the Australian landscape, coast and sea. An Australian expatriate, it’s revealing that Sears has named most of the paintings after actual places in her home country -- such as Millingimbi, referring to the largest of the Crocodile Islands off the Australian coast, and Warrumbungle, referencing the Warrumbungles mountain range in New South Wales.
Warrumbungle is distinct from most of the others in this series. The palette is limited to four colors, along with a few small glimpses of white between some of the characteristic shapes and lines. The top and bottom of the canvas are painted a saturated (for Sears) cadmium reddish-orange. In a sense, this red area serves as what otherwise might be seen as white space, an expanse of background color, pristine -- unmarked by lines of graphite. The middle ground is dominated by a horizontal band of violet and light orange shapes, bordered above by a band in lighter orange, which is repeated below, as if reflected. While inadvertent, the central band could be construed as a horizon line -- or, as the name of the work suggests, the silhouette of a distant mountain range.
This foray into abstraction is a departure for Sears, whose previous focus on figurative work defined her earlier career. Although hints of representational forms can be seen when reading between her lines, the effect is not intentional. At close-range, the graphite lines can still be detected, describing winding impulsive trajectories across the plane of abstract compositions that vaguely suggest landscapes. From a distance, the lines are subsumed into the areas of color they define. Although not literally representative of landscape, the paintings, with their demarcations of line and interconnecting masses of color, might be thought of as a nostalgic mental landscape, the visual rendition of internalized feelings about a place -- or a home.
Sears gravitates toward a palette of tints -- colors softened with white -- as well as sections of unadulterated white, with occasional marginal areas of black. Painted in 2015, the seven pieces in this exhibition are oil on canvas, and all rendered in the same 48 x 48 inch configuration. While adhering to her process, and driven by a clear underlying premise, the work also embodies a refreshing component of unpredictability. If Sears has developed rules, she breaks them with impunity. While the canvases are all the same size and all square -- providing identical points of departure -- Sears approaches each one with a different mindset. In some of them, she plays to the edges of the canvas, conforming to the format. In others, like Murrambiji, she ignores the parameters, only placing marks and developing areas of color in selected sections, leaving large areas of white space untouched. The resulting effect connotes islands adrift in a sea of white. While her varied treatment makes the series all the more surprising and engaging, it would be interesting to see the same approach taken out of the square configuration.
The artist’s early classical fine art studies and former practice in figurative painting armed her with the tools to ultimately pursue the unencumbered form of abstraction that has since become her primary focus. In recent years, Sears has deliberately deconstructed the formal conventions of her training. While her present work reflects this new free-flowing direction, the current paintings are informed by the traditional knowledge and skill that was ingrained in her as a young artist. While Sears begins each new piece without any preconceptions -- relying only on her cultivated intuition to guide the compositions -- it’s evident she approaches the blank canvas knowingly, dipping into an enlightened understanding of composition, color and line. WM
Megan Abrahams is a Los Angeles-based writer and artist. The managing editor of Fabrik Magazine, she is also a contributing art critic for Art Ltd., Fabrik, ArtPulse and Whitehot magazines. Megan attended art school in Canada and France. She is currently writing her first novel and working on a new series of paintings.
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