New York

Mary Armstrong

Victoria Munroe Gallery

Mary Armstrong is a painter who in recent years has continued to mine the rich emblematic ground uniting nature and art. In this group of paintings she reaches new levels of profound expression in her chosen area.

Armstrong seamlessly brings together a complex content and multidimensional form in powerful compositions with startling iconic integrity. She is tuned into the universal psychic or spiritual forces that make themselves known through physical changes in nature. Every aspect of these paintings, from the distinctive frame-in-frame format and the wood-panel surface, to the thick built-up layers of paint, is geared to revealing the organizational structure and sweeping forces of growth governing all of life.

In Magnolias for Susan H., 1989, the blossoms of this flowering plant serve as the basis for the effluent rhythmical pattern of Vs or cups; that captures the rising sensation, the “up,” so to speak, that accompanies the act of offering a gift such as flowers.

Armstrong’s interest in the fundamental cycle of life and death comes through in Stem From Dreaming Descendants II, 1988, in the most sophisticated metaphorical terms. Seizing upon the notion of roots, she fashions a network of passages that resembles critical parts of the human body such as lungs and hearts.

A painting entitled Wet Woods, 1989, demonstrates how Armstrong pairs down details of appearances to arrive at basic shapes and structures that become the building blocks of her carefully constructed images. At once abstracted but still recognizable as having been derived from trees or cones, the image, which gains weight and measure from the palpable qualities of the paint, is indivisible from the surface. What gives this painting its tremendous aura of transcendent mystery, however, is finally the luminous color. The hues are intense enough to burnish the seat of imagination which is where, after all, the symbolic mettle of art had better ring true.

Ronny Cohen