Art review: CorRine Colarusso’s truly ecstatic paintings at Sandler
by JERRY CULLUM | Arts Critic Atlanta, Mar 11, 2011
Corrine Colarusso calls the works in her “Shaggy Land” exhibition at Sandler Hudson Gallery “ecstatic paintings.” Ostensibly representations of swamps and marshlands, they may actually represent no less than the revivification of a genre of visionary landscape painting generally considered to have died out with David Jones, Winifred Nicholson and the last of the post-World War British Romantics.
Revivals of it have usually been tinged with a distancing irony, as if to say “We don’t really mean this.” What Colarusso means, though, isn’t anything like an innocent Romanticism. Creating these paintings of imaginary vistas and tangles of reeds and ﬂowers, which depict what she terms “not a comfortable nature, but a fugitive one,” she asked herself such discomfortingly honest questions as “Can artist paint a sunrise in 2011?”
The answer, clearly, is yes, and these paintings demonstrate anew what paint can do that photography and video cannot. These are landscapes that could exist only in vigorously layered paint on canvas; if they were created as manipulated photographs or from-scratch texture less digital facsimiles, they would almost certainly collapse into sentiment.
Dark Engine, 2010, 78 x 66 inches, acrylic on canvas
Shaggy Land 2011, 78 x 66 inches, acrylic on canvas
Executed in the full range of non-literal representation that paint affords, they become vehicles for psychological exploration of our own emotional depths. In fact, these paintings have caused a considerable emotional rush in viewers not ordinarily inclined to disappear into a landscape. There are huge realms of neurological research and speculation about human biology that may be at play here.
What are certain are the formalist depths at work. Foregrounds defeat our expectations in their combination
of different painting styles. Midgrounds dissolve into backgrounds in ways that keep the eye busy. Light is
rendered in ways that seem right to recollection without replicating any night, dawn, dusk, or midday that a
camera has captured. The titles alone would suggest this: ”Radiant Night,” “Strings, Charms and Droplets,” “Flowers That Speak, Sunrise,” “Shadows and Moons,” or “Dark Engine,” to cite only a few.
"Dark Engine” (above) is worth singling out for its particular combination of foreground ﬂowers rendered with dramatic contrasts in brushwork (not to mention botanical exactitude) and adjacent implicit reﬂections in water that combine elements of action painting with juxtapositions of color that are more restrained but still energetic.
The artist, who describes her project as “the re-enchantment of painting,” said this about “Dark Engine:”
“The night is a dark engine. The mind is a dark engine. When you combine them it can create the loop that leads to a dark interior space.”
It does. Why it does so, and why it will inevitably not do so for every type and condition of viewer no matter how deftly the paint is handled, is a topic to be talked about elsewhere. But Colarusso has given us the materials to start the conversation. (Through April 9).