This dizzying feeling is especially strong in Westby’s large canvas “Ship Wreck Survivor,” with its tumultuous waves reminiscent of Turner’s stormy marine scenes. In Westby’s painting, however,a huge hand –– presumably that of God –– appears in the starry nocturnal sky, guiding the tiny figure toward the shore. The artist’s thick paint application enhances the drama of the scene, with tactile impastos that pile up on the surface of the canvas, making the white foam on the crashing waves and the craggy textures of the brown rocks physically palpable. Indeed, the figure of the wave-tossed survivor strugglingly swimming toward the shore, as the mast of his wrecked ship bobs in the distance, is so thickly pigmented that it casts an actual shadow on the surface of the rushing sea, also evoked in juicy strokes. The picture has a mythic quality that makes one think of epics such as “Moby Dick” or “Jonah and the Whale,” albeit translated into visceral visual terms by Westby’s bold way with composition and materials.
    The sense of vertigo again invests an even larger mixed media and acrylic painting on canvas called “La Source” with an unusual impact. Here, while the composition is essentially abstract, one gets a sense, not only from the title, but also from the yellow forms streaming down like blinding rays in dynamic perspective from a central hub, of staring up at the sun. This picture, in particular, possesses a power akin to that of the Beat Generation female artist Jay De Feo’s famous painting, “The Rose,” legendary for its unprecedentedly thick paint application. While Westby’s impasto may not be quite as thick in “La Source,” the effect of the work on the viewer is equally mesmerizing by virtue of her spatial approach.
    An opposite mood is evoked in “Blue Moon,” a work invested with a serene atmospheric mystery, in which the lunar orb floats through the night sky trailing long wisps of cloud resembling a woman’s hair blowing in the wind. Below, rectangular geometric shapes appear, like refuse floating in a river, suggesting contrasts between the ethereal and earthly realms.  
    In other paintings by Westby, such as “Delivering the Light” and “Fortune’s Wheel,” abstraction is employed allusively to evoke a sense of the spiritual with imagery that suggests various states of being without resorting to literal descriptiveness. In a composition called “Horizon,” however, the forms of white birds fly low over a rugged terrain like aircraft approaching a runway and recede in vanishing perspective toward a streaked blue sky, sweeping the viewer along on the wings of Chantal Westby’s sheer painterly velocity.                     –– written by Peter Wiley
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Chantal Westby’s Paintings Project an Epic Grandeur

Blue Moon, Paintings, 36 x 60
The Italian phrase 'di sotto in su', which means “looking up from below,” is a device for creating spatial allusions via severe foreshortening, and is often seen in the ceiling frescos of Andrea Mantegna and other Renaissance masters but is rarely encountered in the work of contemporary artists. Chantal Westby, a French painter who moved to the United States in the 1980s, is one of the rare exceptions. Westby often employs di sotto in su effectively to add a dynamic sense of depth to her large mixed media compositions, while sometimes producing an almost vertiginous sensation in the viewer.
    This dizzying feeling is especially strong in Westby’s large canvas “Ship Wreck Survivor,” with its tumultuous waves reminiscent of Turner’s stormy marine scenes. In Westby’s painting, however,a huge hand –– presumably that of God –– appears in the starry nocturnal sky, guiding the tiny figure toward the shore. The artist’s thick paint application enhances the drama of the scene, with tactile impastos that pile up on the surface of the canvas, making the white foam on the crashing waves and the craggy textures of the brown rocks physically palpable. Indeed, the figure of the wave-tossed survivor strugglingly swimming toward the shore, as the mast of his wrecked ship bobs in the distance, is so thickly pigmented that it casts an actual shadow on the surface of the rushing sea, also evoked in juicy strokes. The picture has a mythic quality that makes one think of epics such as “Moby Dick” or “Jonah and the Whale,” albeit translated into visceral visual terms by Westby’s bold way with composition and materials.
    The sense of vertigo again invests an even larger mixed media and acrylic painting on canvas called “La Source” with an unusual impact. Here, while the composition is essentially abstract, one gets a sense, not only from the title, but also from the yellow forms streaming down like blinding rays in dynamic perspective from a central hub, of staring up at the sun. This picture, in particular, possesses a power akin to that of the Beat Generation female artist Jay De Feo’s famous painting, “The Rose,” legendary for its unprecedentedly thick paint application. While Westby’s impasto may not be quite as thick in “La Source,” the effect of the work on the viewer is equally mesmerizing by virtue of her spatial approach.
    An opposite mood is evoked in “Blue Moon,” a work invested with a serene atmospheric mystery, in which the lunar orb floats through the night sky trailing long wisps of cloud resembling a woman’s hair blowing in the wind. Below, rectangular geometric shapes appear, like refuse floating in a river, suggesting contrasts between the ethereal and earthly realms.  
    In other paintings by Westby, such as “Delivering the Light” and “Fortune’s Wheel,” abstraction is employed allusively to evoke a sense of the spiritual with imagery that suggests various states of being without resorting to literal descriptiveness. In a composition called “Horizon,” however, the forms of white birds fly low over a rugged terrain like aircraft approaching a runway and recede in vanishing perspective toward a streaked blue sky, sweeping the viewer along on the wings of Chantal Westby’s sheer painterly velocity.                     –– written by Peter Wiley

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