The Neo-Pointillism of Santina “Semadar” Panetta

Spring River, Paintings, 36 x 48
At a heretofore little explored juncture where pointillism meets optical art and color field painting are the oils of Santina “Semadar” Panetta, an artist who was exposed to the classical arts in both her native Italy and Greece before migrating to Montreal, and who has staked out her own unique territory.
Ostensibly, Panetta’s paintings are landscapes. Yet her own distinctive manner of juxtaposing discrete dots of color that blend together optically, rather than on the artist’s palette, goes beyond the effects of nature to spark a dazzling chromatic shimmer perhaps more akin to early Larry Poons and Brigid Riley than to those of Seurat.
    At the same time, Panetta has obviously studied and absorbed the pointillist master’s formula for optical painting based on the systematic repetition of elements that he referred to as “divisionism,” through which he hoped to arrive at a more rational approach to light and color than the fleeting effects of the Impressionists. Panetta, however, ups the chromatic ante by employing fiery colors in some works that her predecessor might not have necessarily have chosen and combining them with contemporary intrepidness. And, ultimately, much as Seurat did in his own time and manner, her paintings transcend the technique that she employs to create them, becoming entities illuminated by a unique life of their own.   
    Although at face value the comparison could seem far-fetched given the disparity of their subject matter, Panetta’s work can also be likened to that of Chuck Close for the manner in which the separate units that make up her compositions, while abstract at close range, cohere from a distance to create the image. However, it is primarily Panetta’s unique color combinations that set her work apart, as well as the manner in which she animates the surfaces of her paintings through the arrangement of her daubs of color and the juxtapositioning of different hues to capture subtly changing qualities of light unlike those of either earlier Pointillists or their peers in the Impressionist movement.
    Neither quasi-scientific in the way that Arthur Danto meant when he referred to Seurat as “a chilly geometrist, a chromatic engineer,” or  beholden to the random whims of nature in the manner of plein air painters such as Monet,  Panetta’s paintings appear to  partake of both systematic and spontaneous elements in order to arrive at the radiant effects that they project. Yet light is invariably the pièce de resistance in her compositions.
    In order to savor the subtle variations that she achieves from one composition to another, one need only compare her oil on canvas “Spring River” to another oil on canvas entitled “Day Break.” In the former work, for all the chromatic razzle dazzle of the shimmering surface, the forms of the flowing blue river and the yellow and green foliage along its shore are clearly defined. In the latter painting, however, the landscape is all but deconstructed by the blindingly brilliant sense of light that fills the entire composition, illuminating it to the point of near oblivion. Here, as its title implies, the dawn light virtually “breaks” the composition into a glittering array of golden hues, exemplifying the synthesis of landscape and abstraction at which Santina “Semadar” Panetta excels.                  –– written by Byron Coleman

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