Art Review Archives:
The forces of weather affect us profoundly. This is not so much esoteric as unknown knowledge. Our electrical body is influenced by magnetic resonances in earth and sky. Clouds, which exert such a visual impact, are also movers of unseen forces or "invisibles" which affect body and mind. As writer Peter Redgrove points out in The Black Goddess and the Unseen Real, his study of the non-visual senses, we move through our days ignorant of such resonances; we have been divorced from the timbre of weather's cycles and the intuitions they contain. Two artists now showing, "Jeff Aeling: Recent Paintings" at Perimeter Gallery and "Valerie Taglieri: The Luminescent Quality" at Aron Packer Gallery, present works that reawaken such perceptions. Jeff Aeling's visions of marled cloud and lean shrub-dotted prairie tingle the surface of the skin with their charge of natural force. Valerie Taglieri's radiant, red-gold windows of sky evoke an inner, sphinx-like intuition. Both artists exercise an accuracy of observation that captures, as well as the seen, that unseen emanation of atmospheric conditions, which might be science, spirit, or both: what Redgrove calls "a choir of invisibles." Both offer works that draw the viewer in, that satisfy with more than just visual pleasure. They are well worth seeing.
at Perimeter Gallery
"Jeff Aeling: Recent Paintings" at Perimeter Gallery presents fifteen of the artist's works from 2002. Cloud and sky fill the upper portions of Aeling's canvases, anchored by a long, low horizon, exquisitely-rendered with an intense attention to detail. The effect is to capture an immense quantity of natural force in a single view.
Aeling is an anatomist of clouds. He understands how they layer, how they are massed, the ways in which their density manipulates light and how that density gathers to drop distant veils of sheeting rain. In Thunderstorm S. of Galisteo, NM (22"x48":oil on panel), the unstable atmosphere of a thunderstorm stretches and heaps long plumes of cloud beneath a higher layering of amorphous gray. Through this the sun, a veiled glory, transmits its light, alternately refracted and blocked by the varying thicknesses of the storm layers. Thunderstorm N. of Tirinidad, CO (18"x24":oil on panel) presents complex, mixed skies, with a billow of heaped white cumulus hanging left of center, while low, chill layers of stratus move off to the upper right. Aeling captures the notable variety of clouds, the feel of how, as the Field Guide to North American Weather notes, the "wind speed, temperature, and moisture content [vary] from layer to layer," how "they transform, dissipate, and blend," pushed by and pushing the air masses around them. In Thunderstorm on the White Bluffs, NM (34"x48":oil on panel) the long cloud masses are complex with textures and radiance, their fingered gray banners lit with surprising highlights of white. The contrast of cloud masses in foreground and back, the layers of light and cloud, are further contrasted by an edge of blue, clear sky. In reviewing this show, Chicago Tribune art critic, Alan Artner, noted that the artist's "records of climatic conditions...hold attention with a hard, dry manner that conveys intense observation." And indeed, the artist does show his skill in seeing, and portraying, his turbulent skies down to the finest meteorological detail.
A viewer at the gallery opening was heard to dismiss Aeling's work as 'mere' photorealism. But there is something more here, something that satisfies, and in doing so, invites deeper looking. The excellent color photos in the Field Guide to North American Weather also present clouds in all their variety and glory, but they do not hold the same fascination. There is something here more than photographic, some capacitory quality of the clouds that has its responding resonance in the human body. Peter Redgrove notes that such an effect is more than just seen:
The large central cloud in Rain Clouds S. of Pueblo, CO (21"x34":oil on panel) has such a shadow, furnishes such air. A single tree in the foreground signals the motion of the marled sky, clearing raggedly at lower right. From the green tufts of grass in the foreground, to the distant hills, the immense expanse seems filled to brimming with freshness, ozone. The works of man are absent, and the skin hungers to feel what it would be like in such a landscape, entirely free of electromagnetic interruptions, and rich with subtle, vital charges. There is a feeling of drawing, of communion: that, standing on two feet on these prairies, one would be rooted in a strong tie to the land, electromagnetically, or spiritually. The pull is as the pull of a magnet. All one's cells are strongly drawn. This picture is alive.
There are multiple, dynamic balances in these works, and their interaction is part of the fascination. Aeling's works balance shen and jing, spirit and rootedness, both Asian terms (they represent, alternatively, energies of higher awareness, and physical vigor respectively). In this artist's work, shen is the clouded sky, jing the long, flat, firmly-etched landscape with its tiny detail. The sky soars; the ground anchors; moving between both, we feel a stabilizing effect. There are many opposites working in coordination here: land and sky; detail and diffusion; dark and light; the solid and the airy. Aeling balances them all with a dynamic rightness that is part of the power of his work. The framing as well, a smooth coal-colored molding subtly distressed with salmon hints, serves to anchor and display these works to best effect.
"Jeff Aeling: Recent Paintings" presents works which draw eye and spirit outward, out into the vast breathing-room between rich earth and ozone-charged sky. His seen landscapes are more than realistic representations of untroubled landscape: they are, as well, expressive of unseen forces, whether divine, or scientific. They are a significant pleasure. "Jeff Aeling: Recent Paintings" will be at Perimeter Gallery through October 12, 2002.
at Aron Packer Gallery
"Valerie Taglieri: The Luminescent Quality" at Aron Packer Gallery offers nineteen gemlike visions of the rich play of light as it rolls along the spectrum, illuminating cloud-masses and edges of visible sky. Illustrating clouds and light without visible horizons, Taglieri captures a truth about the way in which we observe the sky: as its own entity, and as a vision against which we reflect on inner states. As the gallery notes, "one knows not whether these luminescent forms come directly from imagination or the heavens themselves." They invite deeper looking.
Taglieri's accurate observation contains elements of the sacred, of intuitiveness. Her work holds a mysticism that lies, in part, in her choice of portraying twilight in many of her paintings, with its rich palette of rose, red and gold. Meteorologically, twilight is created by sunlight appearing from beneath the horizon, slanting through dust and molecules in the atmosphere. In spirit it is a liminal state, either rising from, or descending to, the velvety darkness of night. In Sky (#140), which also appears on the gallery card for this show, illuminate wind-stretched streamers of cloud hang against a pale sky barely touched into color by the distant dawn. The diagonal rising from left to right suggests waking restfulness: the first cup of coffee or tea, the early hours of preparation for the coming day. It is the sky of solo mornings out running, or heading early to work: a private beauty. To call it morning is subjective; several of these works are, ambiguously, dawn or dusk; but the mind does find cues to decide on one or the other, as in Sky (#150), where the angle of diminishing light saturates striated clouds with orange and gold. Their gentle, downward slant to the right brings an evening mood of introspection, rest and peace.
Taglieri presents soft-edged forms, diffuse, a bit abstract; it is a pleasure to imagine them, for a moment, simply colorful forms in cloudlike array. A richness of hue infuses all these works, but they are not mere exercises in appealing pigments: they all obey cloud-logic, they all portray light. Sky (#148), creates expectance, the tiptoe of sun's-glow on the brink of breaking out. Sky (#143) captures the complex play of golden light among many-layered clouds, right down to the subtle veiling of red-gold crepuscular rays slanting across the lower left. These works show the artist's understanding of how luminescence plays through and around the clouds, the differing qualities and colors of light as refracted or blocked by these continually shifting airborne masses of ice-crystals or water-droplets. And they exhibit a supreme sleight of hand. The illusion of incandescence is created with oil paint, an inert medium which has no innate radiance of its own.
But what is light? It is energy, and here the artist captures the invisible resonances, the unseen forces. The emotional reaction is also an electromagnetic reaction: the body, seeing each cloudscape, knows how that cloudscape feels. Sky (#141) (12"x12":oil on panel) fires the body with full-voltage radiance, the sun lighting the cloud masses into white-gold fire, a counterpart to the "light-shadow" and "electrical shadow" noted above. Sky (#151) (16"x16":oil on panel), with its horizontal bar of stormcloud, evokes a gathered-in, lowering tenseness, what Redgrove describes as "The unpleasant atmosphere before a storm...the depression, the 'katabasis' or 'going down'; it is the pressure of weather re-composing the human psyche." Sky (#146) (34"x12":oil on panel) lifts body, mind and spirit in tracing the piled-up masses of roseate cloud high, high and higher to a bright billow of cumulus against an ozone-fresh edge of blue sky: the breathless elevation is physical as well as mental.
In Taglieri's paintings shen and jing, spirit and rootedness, find balance in the warm, earthy weight of the frame anchoring the skyborne energy of the paintings. Each color-rich work is set within a wide framing of smooth, darkly stained wood, its oblique bevel drawing back on all four sides as if folded open against the wall. Visually, the effect recalls that of a gem in a setting, the broad, dark area around each image enhancing its brightness. This framing also adds to the feel of sacredness, recalling the heavy wood of church adornment. It signals that one is seeing something special, something out of the ordinary. The sky soars; the frame anchors. Just how well that balance works can be seen in its somewhat absence. Sky (#144) (24"x24":oil on panel) and Sky (#143) (24"x24":oil on panel), larger works, are framed with a narrower beveled band. Here the wood does not have enough weight to counterbalance the sky, and these two paintings lose some of the definitive presence that characterizes the other works.
The industrial revolution sought to harness man's energy to machine rhythms rather than natural ones. Redgrove notes that
Valerie Taglieri's works restore to the viewer those windows of sky we see only rarely, early dawn or autumn morning: those moments that still manage to slip into the gaps of our industrial-era lives, despite hurried, clock-driven passage from place to place. In such moments we may feel, with deep recognition, a mystic element, a communion with self, cyclical time, and the natural world -- feel a part of, as Redgrove says, "a continually changing, continuously held field of resonance, like a choir of visibles and invisibles."
Both Valerie Taglieri and Jeff Aeling exercise a level of observation that captures the unseen forces along with the seen. They are anatomists of cloud and light, sky and atmosphere. Both offer works of excellence and merit. They will be showing at their respective galleries through October 12, 2002. The viewer is encouraged to make a special trip.
--Katherine Rook Lieber
Editorial Note: Books mentioned in www.artscope.net reviews may be purchased through this site's Amazon.com link. Peter Redgrove is quoted from The Black Goddess and the Unseen Real: Our Unconscious Senses and their Uncommon Sense (Grove Press:1987). The National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Weather (Chanticleer Press, Inc./Alfred A. Knopf Inc.:2001) is an excellent resource on meteorology for the layman. Alan Artner is quoted from his review of "Jeff Aeling: Recent Paintings" in the September 27, 2002 edition of the Chicago Tribune.