New York

Catherine Stine

Sunnen Gallery

Catherine Stine reenergizes the genre of landscape painting, transforming it into a medium of active engagement that reflects a deep concern with the earth’s survival. In Rainforest Fire, 1992, forms accrete in crisscrossing and heaving painterly passages suggesting the interdependency of vegetal, mineral, and animal. What appear, at first glance, to be simply parts of leaves, plant stems, and stalks metamorphose, upon more sustained scrutiny, into flames and marine creatures. Stine’s descriptive style becomes a metaphor for natural diversity even as she negotiates the tension inherent to the combination of abstract and minutely detailed surfaces.

Under the reflective glare of the high-toned coloration Stine favors, so arresting in both Rainforest Fire and Pod Field with Turtle, shapes take on an almost sci-fi ambiguity, adding yet another dimension to the meaning of her work. In these and other paintings, including Healer, 1992, and Marine Mandala, 1992, it is possible to discern the generative principles of life at work. Nature itself seems to determine the organic flow of forms, to set in motion the spinning and sweeping structures with swelling shapes and warm colors. What this group of paintings also provides is an especially vivid reminder that the Classical and Romantic parameters once used to assess landscape paintings seem increasingly unsatisfactory in light of our current preoccupation with the environment. As religious icons once did, these glowing canvases depict an idealized vision of a world yet to be realized.

Ronny Cohen