By Tom Wachunas
“Now I really feel the landscape, I can be bold and include every tone of blue and pink: it's enchanting, it's delicious." -Claude Monet
“Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing one’s sensations.” -Paul Cezanne
EXHIBIT: LIGHT – new works by Heather Bullach, at the Little Art Gallery, located in the North Canton Public Library, 185 North Main Street, North Canton, on view through November 15, 2015 / 330.499.4712
Here’s an excerpt from a review I posted back on February 11, 2014, about Heather Bullach’s portrait paintings: “…And to her method she brings a necessarily keen, sensitive eye for nuances of light, color and perspective, along with a remarkably adroit physical touch that gives a silken presence to her surfaces.”
That assessment remains largely apropos to Heather Bullach’s current body of work, but it also merits appending some other observations. Whereas her earlier surfaces effectively honed the “silken presence” of her paint handling, giving her images a tidy realism, her new works represent a transition toward purer painting, which is to say letting the paint be paint. In so doing, they announce an invigorated and considerably less timid presence of the artist’s brush. While this sort of manual expressivity is subtly evident in a few of Bullach’s recent portraits, it’s decidedly more apparent in her newfound embrace of the landscape genre.
Her intimately-scaled oil paintings are seductive hybrids of the literal (representational) and the essential (abstract). Throughout most of the compositions, colors and shapes are treated as harmoniously balanced planes, rendered with a quietly gestural energy (as opposed to weighty impasto). Sometimes the softly blended brushstrokes appear a bit formulaic or precious in the regularity of their application, such as in the gold and brown fields depicted in September. But generally, they suggest actual textures while not belaboring meticulous illusionism. Bullach is beginning to use the materiality of paint not toward a strictly mimetic end so much as a sensational one in the true sense of the word.
Certainly the most striking presence here is the ephemeral yet tangible character of light itself. Reflected light, as in the jewel-like shimmering of Indian Summer. Refracted and dispersed light, as in the eerily serene Fog. Or the spectacular potency of dramatic light, as in Charelston Steeple.
Of course, it’s via the transformations of color that we best apprehend light in its most palpable manifestations. The subtle dynamics of variable color intensity and saturation work remarkably well together in Bullach’s landscapes, imbuing them with - to borrow another reference from my 2014 review - not just credible likenesses, but enchanted lifenesses.
And if colors can be said to impart real tastes, Bullach’s are indeed delicious. Monet would approve.
PHOTOS, from top, courtesy Heather Bullach: September; Indian Summer; Fog; Charleston Steeple; Sunlit