Contributed by Tom McGlynn / Claire Seidl’s contemplative works are closely aligned with the Abstract Expressionist/Existentialist ideal whereby the painter must be eminently present in order to access and transmit the sincerity of experience. Her paintings are not history bound, however, but rooted in the perennial quest for a very personal gesture unbounded. A general ardor for a palpable encounter with “presentness” in painting has never really abated and has more likely increased considering a contemporary flight from figurative weight and its traditional alloy to literal meaning. Virtual worlds are still no match for somatic realities.
In his novel Immortality, Milan Kundera observed ,“To be mortal is the most basic human experience, and yet man has never been able to accept it, grasp it, and behave accordingly. Man doesn’t know how to be mortal. And when he dies, he doesn’t even know how to be dead.” Expressionist painting still has the power to invoke contemplation of the undeniable finitude of lived experience in the viewer. The visceral materiality of Seidl’s gestural improvisations certainly, poignantly mark time against the backdrop of time’s own dramatic certitude. The exhibition’s title, “Violets are Blue,” borrowed from her 2021 painting, poetically emphasizes the immutable aspect of mortal decisiveness – the apposite red roses haunting the path not taken.
Other works, such as Believe You Me, To Each Their Own, and In and Of Itself (all 2021), comprise a Greek chorus of parallel meanings in piquant counterpoint to the artist’s freewheeling gestures. Consider The Big Picture (2022) in which Seidl’s characteristic asemic writing flourishes become explosive fragments of slashing line. This painting’s subtle orchestration of undersaturated reds and greens adds a note of complimentary fission that energizes its expanding field. This work is a perfect example of how Seidl utilizes and then reinterprets the syntax of Abstract Expressionism’s “big picture” calligraphics into a language all to her own
A shift in emphasis occurs in It Don’t Mean a Thing (2022), a relatively small canvas composed of wide and elongated dry-brushed black streaks over a bright yellow field, aligned vertically. Here Seidl leans towards more deliberate, workmanlike gestures that establish a dramatic value contrast between background and foreground. Its psychic effect is to impart both the futility of simply filling up space and the blind faith of nevertheless insistently doing so.
A sophisticated color sensibility at once reinforces and regulates the emotional temperature of the artist’s compositions. For instance, in Believe You Me softer, washy light red hues control a very active field of broad vertical gestures, somewhat akin to how Jackson Pollock’s subtle light orange-reds in Lavender Mist (1950) moderate his vaulting drips. In contrast, the deep purples and blues in Seidl’s Late Not Never (2022) amplify the painting’s excoriated, sculptural surface. Such deft calibration of color and form can only come from the long and contemplative experience of painting in and of itself.
“Claire Seidl: Violets are Blue,” David Richard Gallery, 211 E. 121st Street, New York, NY. Through April 22, 2022.
About the author: Tom McGlynn is an artist and writer based in the NYC area. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and The Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum of the Smithsonian among other national and international collections. He is currently an editor at large at The Brooklyn Rail.
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