New York

Susan Hambleton

Trabia-MacAfee Gallery

In this display of recent paintings and related charcoals, Susan Hambleton gives striking expression to the poetic notion of nature as the sum and measure of all things in the universe. Inspired by a summer’s stay at MacDowell, the well-known artists’ and writers’ colony located in New Hampshire, these landscapes show keen sensitivity to what might be called the indivisible character of nature. Hambleton reveals how all-enveloping landscape can be. Each composition is one that fills our thoughts and feelings as it steals our eyes. In Thinking of You, 1988–89, a painting of a chair set in a wide expanse of lawn with a thicket of pines in the distant horizon, the surface seems to be materializing as we regard it. It appears to us as pure image, floating or, better yet, rising toward the viewer. The contrast between brightness and shadow serves to bathe the image in a superheated atmosphere that is suggestive of spent passions. The chair, which sits in a sea of grass and looks tiny against the trees in the distance behind it, seems adrift in the restless flow of nature and a symbol of absence.

Hambleton’s method of combining impressionistic and realistic passages within a single painting can best be appreciated in What You Don’t Know, 1988. The work has an open and inviting space through which we may enter, in the form of a mowed lawn shown at a low angle in the foreground. Hambleton’s powerful strokes appear to settle into the curved patterns that are discernible in the grass. The section of lawn looks real enough to walk into. But the surrounding trees, which are executed in somewhat broader strokes (especially the pines on the left, which are presented as a swirling veil of green wrapped in shadows) seem to belong to another dimension. The trees act as the cornerstones of nature’s tremendous powers of growth.

In Robin’s Nest, 1989, a road winding through thick woods conveys the idea of experiencing nature as a journey toward light, toward greater consciousness. This is achieved by the rhythmical forces that rush through this small canvas, like waves of energy traveling to a single point that is both origin and end.

Ronny Cohen