New York

Jonathan Scoville

Condeso/Lawler Gallery

With much poetic sensitivity and considerable painterly flair, Jonathan Scoville is renewing one of the most overworked themes in the history of Modern art. The landscape, in his paintings of the sky and countryside surrounding his home in Cornwall, Connecticut, is given fresh significance as both a metaphoric representation and a symbol of personal consciousness. The products of a unique marriage of two distinct traditions in landscape painting—which can be generically labeled the objective and the subjective impulse, respectively—Scoville’s paintings immediately trigger associations. More specifically, what pushes the associative trigger in paintings such as August, 1985, September Sunset, 1985, and Passing Storms, 1985, is the intriguing tension that exists between their documentary tone and decidedly romantic pitch.

The more we look at each painting, our initial sense that it serves as a mirror reflecting the appearance of a given place and time with almost scientific accuracy gives way, and the torrent of feeling underlying the artist’s own response to nature starts to overwhelm us. What we begin to see is the passion with which every part of these compositions was conceived. In August a rolling hill is visible through an opening in a thicket of trees in the foreground; the bright sky above it is filled with clouds that seem to be in the process of assembling themselves into a spreading pattern which, on the most universal level, impresses as a metaphor for growth, as do the rhythmical shapes barely visible in the dark, shadowy thicket. In Passing Storms the shapes inscribed in the strip of land hugging the bottom of the composition coalesce into the figures of deer and other animals native to the area. The billowing layers of clouds that settle over the sky, cascades that cover it like a luxurious tapestry, invites similar interpretations by reawakening the childhood game of imagining clouds to be various, marvelous things—ships, a chariot with horses—always with the power to transport, to take us away. In this group of recent paintings Scoville has presented thoughts on the relationship of continuity, change, and transformation (the latter implicit in nature and in people as well) that are well worth pondering.

Ronny H. Cohen