Susan Sales opens at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art 12/17

Susan Sales opens at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art 12/17

[click “Play” to listen to Susan Sales speak about her work]

Susan A show of new work by painter Susan Sales goes on display at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art on Thursday, December 17. The opening artist’s reception is 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Susan Sales built her considerable reputation on color field paintings. Eliminating figure and ground in favor of color and form, she forced a focus on paint, color, surface, texture, and gesture, creating near landscapes that “feature” the viewer in the mirror created by glossy, lacquer-like veneers that both contain and protect the raw emotions she paints on to her canvasses. That was then. This is now.

In some of the recent work, Sales’ expansive landscapes have become aggregations of horizontal and vertical fields. Is the modern-day heir to the action painting of the Abstract Expressionists disavowing her roots? Not at all: griddy images are simply a bunch of color field images juxtaposed on the picture plane, little landscapes that create a dazzling patchwork of varying color. And Sales is all about color.

Sales’ earlier work begged comparisons to Mark Rothko, renowned for luminous, transcendental landscapes and in-your-face fields of color. While their formats are similar, they part company based on intention: Rothko was after spiritual transcendence. For three decades, Sales primary interest remains her medium, oil paint, and color that works as well up close as at a distance.

Artist/philosopher Wassily Kandinsky wrote that color resonates emotionally. That goes double for Sales. That’s why they call it the blues. Sales is not known for blue. It is her reds, which in Kandinsky’s lexicon stimulate and excite the heart. In a Sales, there are no accidents when it comes to the way she juxtaposes her colors: the complement of blue is orange. Where they meet, the colors dance.

Sales’ new grids beg comparison to another big name artist, Sean Scully. But again, only the format is more or less the same. Scully is a realist in abstract clothing: his “walls” are originally based on the fall of sunlight on Mayan stone. Sales has been living across from two high-rise construction projects with non-stop views of steel grid and gird-like finished products of windows and walls. So have her landscapes – or more accurately mindscapes – morphed into cityscapes? Nope. Her grids are, once again, simply playgrounds for entertaining a variety of color.

Past and present work share imperfections, little brushwork that shows through larger swaths of color, marks the artist intentionally left when she sanded down the paint. The imperfections    are like the marks left by primitive man on cave walls. They help tell the story of the origins of a particular painting. They are also a metaphor for Sales’ world view. Check out her titles for confirmation.

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