Sirenes: A Sublime Colorist Enamored of Light
Butterfly over Water, Paintings28 x 39.5
As a little girl in kindergarten in Norway the artist known as Sirenes was fascinated with color. She loved the tactile sensation of putting her fingers in paint and applying it directly to the paper. And to this very day many of her large canvases are created entirely by finger-painting. These paintings in particular have a smoothness and a lyricism that is always a distinctive feature of her work, but can be seen to special advantage in the intriguingly titled acrylic on canvas,“The Man Who Disappears,” in which the softly caressed pigment, with its subtle tonal variations of earth tones resembles something more like an amorphous mist of light and shadow than a physical surface: an atmospheric miasma conjured with a finesse that calls to mind the 19th century British painter John Constable’s comment about his great colleague and fellow countryman J.M.W. Turner, of whom he once said, “Turner seems to have outdone himself; now he’s painting with tinted steam!”
Just as mysteriously allusive in another manner, exemplifying the unique combination of coloristic sensitivity and gestural vivacity that Sirenes brings to bear is a composition she calls “The Fairy.” With a starburst composition akin to the West Coast American painter Jay DeFeo’s legendary canvas “The Rose,” albeit with that artist’s thick oil impasto replaced by Sirenes’ smoothly luminous light blue hues heightened with streaks of pearly white, without resorting to figurative imagery the painting evokes the fanciful spirit of a numinous being.
In another large acrylic on canvas called “Joy,” Sirenes conveys an even more elusive subject by virtue of her mastery of chromatic dynamics as vibrant and yet gentle as the music of Ravel. Here, delicately blended and variegated yellows, oranges, reds and pinks, accented with just a few steaks of verdant green, evoke a buoyant sense of the emotion that the title describes. Indeed, with these colors delicately balance at the center of the composition, floating against a beige background suggesting the raw unprimed linen of the canvas itself, Sirenes appears to combine a gestural lyricism that can be compared favorably to the early Abstract Expressionist works of Philip Guston with a chromatic complexity that would do the Color Field master Jules Olitski proud. Her ability to combine these elements so successfully suggests that one might think of her as an “Abstract Impressionist” who often goes beyond the Impressionist goal of painting the effect of light on objects to make the light itself the pi�ce de resistance of her compositions. On the other hand, being a postmodern painter with all the license for free expression which that term implies, she does not hesitate to introduce recognizable subject matter when moved by the desire to do so.
One such work is her acrylic on canvas, “Lake at Night,” in which the white flowers and green leaves on the surface of the blue water appear to pay tribute to Monet, but the sense of their being illuminated by rays from the moon rather than the sun lends the composition a more romantic quality in the manner of Symbolism.
It should be added, however, that here, as well as in other paintings with prominently allusive elements –– such as “Butterfly Over Water” and “Evening” –– it is the underlying abstract armature of formal balance informing her compositions that invariably enhances and empowers all of Sirenes’ paintings.
–– Wilson Wong
Sirenes, Agora Gallery 530 West 25th St., July 23 - August 13, 2013
Reception: Thursday, July 25, 6 - 8 pm.
View press release and exhibition information
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