Saturday, July 2, 2011
The Oil Paintings and Pastels of Contemporary Artist Susan Bennerstrom
above: Susan Bennerstrom, Fort Mason, 32" x 36", oil painting
Artist Susan Bennerstrom began working in pastels and then moved to oil paints in 2008, but her exploration with the depiction of light has continued despite the change in mediums as you will see in this collection of her works.
above: Susan Bennerstrom, Expect to Wait, 35" x 42" 2001, oil pastels
above: Susan Bennerstrom, Still Waiting, 2010, 20" x 24", oil paint on panel
With strong plays of light, shadow and reflections, her works seem to imply either anticipation or expectation - and in some cases, absence. Despite the presence of the human figure in her work, the narrative suggests that one is either coming or has been there.
While she continues to paint interiors and objects, recently she added paintings of buildings within landscapes, to her repertoire. Focusing on the structures rather than the environment, she imbues them with the haunting light of dusk or dawn.
above: Susan Bennerstrom, Georgetown, 32" x 36", oil painting
above: Susan Bennerstrom, Stove, 32" x 36", oil painting
Lonely hallways, inviting stairwells, unmade beds, doors ajar, empty chairs and open windows offer a hint of the human presence in many of her works. Below are just a few of my favorites.
In the artist's own words:
"Since the early 1980’s my main theme has been the exploration and depiction of light. I began with landscape as a foil. Gradually, buildings started to enter the compositions, at first far away and tiny, then closer and larger, until the buildings became the main focus and the landscape shrank. Finally, I concentrated on details of the buildings and the objects within them. Always, however, the structures and objects are stage sets for light with its transformative power and ability to affect emotions. I rarely put figures in my paintings, as I find that they tend to take over; I prefer to let light and shadow imply the narrative and carry the emotional weight. In addition to the dearth of human figures, I also choose to paint quite ordinary scenes, and for the same reason: by focusing on the easily ignorable architectural detail, washbasin, household appliance, piece of furniture, or houseplant, I like to explore how a fall of light can turn a humble item into something poignant and worthy of lasting attention.
I don’t think of myself as a realist painter in the currently accepted sense. I work from photographs, which are themselves abstractions – one step removed from reality. I travel further into abstraction by removing details, shifting things around, changing perspective, exaggerating the quality, color, and direction of light, investing the shadows with greater emotional intensity. The paintings wander far afield of straightforward observations of reality, and instead become my own emotional response to the places and objects depicted.
I have worked for many years in pastels, both chalk and oil. At the beginning of 2008 I laid pastels aside and began working in oil paint. Haven’t looked back. While I continue to love the look and feel of pastels, they presented problems: with chalks it was the dust, with oil pastels it was finding a durable and easy-to-use varnish. Now I’m at home with oil paint, and finally understand why it is the granddaddy of all art mediums."
Susan is presently showing at the Sue Greenwood Fine Art Gallery.
You can see Susan's available works at the Davidson Galleries