Susanne Doremus

Compassrose Gallery

Susanne Doremus’ turbulent abstractions willfully seek and then skirt dissolution. She dares uneasy harmonies, creating images with ceaselessly shifting compositions and temperatures. An expert kind of dimensional sparring is at the core of Doremus’ painting; distinct pictorial planes are layered in tense and expectant shuffles. Pattern retains a tenuous hold over these pictures, providing the glue Doremus regularly taxes to its breaking point.

Washy and indeterminate fields of predominantly pastel tones create the backdrop for her subsequent assaults. Insomnia (all works 1991) is pink and delicate; Swimming is done up in aqua; while Mantra is veiled in a lavender mist. Over these dreamy fields the frenzy begins. Doremus employs various linoleum cuts that she repeatedly paints and applies to her surfaces. There can be a fury to her patterning; in Insomnia, for example, a figure printed hundreds of times creates an allover cacophony that makes the original linoleum-cut image of a crouching female difficult to recognize. This glut of incident would seem to diffuse the impulse to read too much specific meaning into Doremus’ individual elements. The female torso shape and the eye/vagina form in a painting like Landscape, however, are never completely drained of their specificity. Doremus emphasizes formal rhythms over narrative concerns, but the presence of these particular building blocks, even when camouflaged by incessant accretion, gives the painting an added bite.

The various textures and saturations of oil paint present another sort of calibration in Doremus’ stew of incident. Her paintings seem to spin out from a discernable vortex toward a certain equipoise, informed by what ultimately reveals itself to be a judicious process of addition and subtraction. Landscape’s multicolored background of pink, tan, orange, and pale green seems arbitrary and rather disconnected from the proliferation of data that engulfs it. Over these floating and disconnected zones of color Doremus stamps away; the female torso “inked” in black paint appears both vertically and horizontally, while the eye shape is stamped vertically in brick-red. Various degrees of pressure and amounts of paint make the accumulations seem random; indeed, a kind of pointed horror vacui seems to inform this cascading carpet of jumbled and inchoate integers. And yet the picture is curiously absorbing, as it demands a visual unraveling of the dozens of decisions that created it.

James Yood