The Big Subject: Landscape Painting in the 21st Century

Moonshine Falls - Sandy Roumagoux
January 24 – February 27, 2014

Landscape painting is a large and expansive subject matter. In this show it is “The Big Subject.” It attempts to depict nature — an environment much larger than human scale — on a mere panel hung on a wall. A landscape painting often includes small elements in the foreground  close up, while the view moves into the distance to the horizon and up to the sky as far as our eyes can reach showing a vast expanse. Additionally, the subject matter  “Nature,” has been historically considered a sublime subject, making landscape painting “The Big Subject” metaphorically as well as literally.

Landscape painting didn’t start out as the subject at all. It served for a long time as back ground in paintings. By the 19th Century it developed into a large and dominant artform, and moved towards landscapes with specific relevance we see today. Artist David Hockney says about his recent series of large landscape paintings: “I want to show people the world. I think we see things from pictures…otherwise people don’t see things much. They don’t look hard at the world. Well, I do.”

The Big Subject invites viewers to look closer at our world. The landscapes of Sandy Roumagoux and Kendra Larson show how modern life interacts with the fragility of nature. Their natural settings are places for play, respite, renewal and conservation, and at times, places for tension between enjoyment and exploitation.

Sandy Roumagoux

While some landscapes can be sweet and pastoral, Sandy Roumagoux ‘s work is far removed from hinting at preciousness or sentimentality.  It is bold and daring, with a large brushstroke. Her paintings are interpretations of faith, war and nature. Roumagoux says: “Much of what I do is predicated upon a personal fundamental acceptance of the “divine absurdities” of existence, and the dualities in our existence of love/hate, violence/peace, silent/sound, night/day.” Having been called political, she feels politics and art cannot be separated, that both politicians and artists have a message that resonates with the public, both make promises and says, “the subjects of my paintings are influenced by my growing up on a farm where I was raise by avid environmentalists and gun lovers.”

Maple Trail - Kendra LarsonKendra Larson

According to Kendra Larson, each generation’s cultural understanding of nature is reflected in their approach and execution of landscape painting; it clarifies their understanding of Place. Larson’s generation is marked by uncertainty, nostalgia and Romanticism sees Nature as an unchanging spiritual force. Although Larson works in the 19th Century tradition of representational landscape painting, her work becomes entirely contemporary by highlighting the material properties of the paint through its application. She employs an entirely 21st Century contemporary use of color and materials. Larson says, “In my art practice, I find that chaos, awe and fear are revealed in ways I could not plan when I begin a piece.” She has also found inspiration in books: My Abandonment (Peter Rock) and Sometimes a Great Notion (Ken Kesey), and says, “in these stories, as in my painting, I have found that the Pacific Northwest is unique in that there, our cultural identity, spirituality, and sense of history is strongly intertwined with the environment.”

See a video of Larson’s process on one of her large paintings >>

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