Saturday, May 19, 2012

The light is quite illuminating

There are stop-and-think shows, funny shows, interesting shows, some overwrought silly shows and hat-in-hand, well-meaning shows.

Sally Condon’s 19-piece “In Broad Sunlight” is a drop-dead-gorgeous show, filled with beautifully crafted oil and wax paintings, at Matrix Fine Art. Her radiant paintings magically light up the walls while offering viewers intimate narrative vignettes about life in Condon’s backyard garden universe.

I have mixed feelings about her latest work. In visual tactility and sheer juiciness it falls somewhere between the six Rembrandts that my father visited on rainy Sundays at the Baltimore Museum of Art and those vanilla ice cream bars on a stick wrapped in frozen orange sherbet that were my favorite childhood indulgence.

If you go
WHAT: “In Broad Sunlight,” 19 oil and wax paintings by Sally Condon
WHEN: Through June 9
WHERE: Matrix Fine Art, 3812 E. Central
HOW MUCH: Free. Call 268-8952

In “Blue Note” Condon juxtaposes a creamy orange across the right-hand two-thirds of the vertically divided composition against a pale gray area punctuated with a turquoise oval on the lower left. Two circular forms within rectangles on the right are textured with grid patterns.

The only darks in the composition run along the vertical divide between the orange and gray areas. The effect of the dark blue, red, green and pale yellow vertical stripes of color is to draw the eye away from the large areas to focus on what becomes a rift between the two large planes.

In all of Condon’s paintings the details are where the secrets hide. Most of us think of classical Greek sculpture in terms of pure white marble or limestone. In reality Greek sculpture was originally painted in garish bright colors that were softened and muted into normal flesh tones and hair colors when bathed in unrelenting Mediterranean sunlight.

Condon is unafraid of sunlight and purposefully allows it to burn away many of her forms. The remaining islands of structure are the survivors of the searing solar beacon.

In “Lemon Afternoon” Condon offers small rectilinear sections made up of dark color and collage elements that float in a pale lemon yellow void. The beauty of these details is their clear wax overlays that keep them level with the painted surface.

Condon uses a brayer to apply layers of color to avoid the distraction of brush strokes. Her technique is similar to the application of ink on a printing plate.

By building each layer upon the next, she achieves an inner luminosity that captures and rebroadcasts ambient light.

Condon reveals a sense of humor in “Peek,” a vertical composition of blues and pale yellow that is enhanced with a vertical dark area out of which peeks a flower with white petals that seems to be shy.

The painting is filled with etched lines and highly detailed elements that offer depth and richness to the whole. “Peek” is a stunning piece that includes a bit of scumbled brushwork.

Another vertically composed picture is “Keeping Up” featuring pink, red, white and green areas floating in pale yellow. At one time we were all the little kid who was assumed to not be able to keep up with the bigger kids.

Though Condon may not have had that kind of keeping up in mind, her lovely pictorial evokes the idea.

Her collage materials include leaves, flowers, bits of cloth and photographs all blended into her compositions under layers of beeswax. Condon is a gardener and beekeeper. Her materials, ideas and stories fall readily to hand. Each painting is infused with sunlight, Condon’s love for nature and a modicum of magic.