In certain moments we manage, through the quality of our
attention, to transform the simplest of things — our breath, a
rock, the sound of water — into complex miracles. While we are in
them, such moments seem to be the stuff of which our lives ought to
be made. For most of us, such moments are elusive and come less
frequently than we might like. What if there were an abundance of
such moments waiting for you, and you knew where to find them?

This is the experience of contemplating Nicole Strasburg’s
40 + 40 @ 40. Consider, for example, “Island Clouds,” one of the
simplest compositions. The top two-thirds of the panel are covered
with a pattern of gentle blues and whites, the lower third by a
tender arch of dappled yellows and ocher. The illusion is never
lost. We know this hill and this sky immediately, yet the
composition is utterly modern, the landscape having been abstracted
by a camera-informed eye. The subject matter, too, which is really
the curve of a hill — a curve that the eye loves, even if the mind
cannot be convinced of its importance — is influenced by
20th-century photography. The groupings of colors, though, are
organic, arranged like lichen across bark. The palette is subtler
than we are used to seeing in plein air paintings, the colors of
individual strokes varied enough to create a restrained sparkle.
And the brushwork itself is completely human; we have the sense
that we can follow the hand of the artist as she makes her marks,
the gestures both spontaneous and rhythmic. Each of these layers
integrates flawlessly with the others to at once enliven and
soothe. The breath slows in front of such a painting, but the heart
beats faster.

This relaxed complexity is carried throughout, whether in other
minimalist works, such as the series of water trickling over sand,
or in more elaborately breathtaking compositions, such as the
“Ireland Slate” triptych or “Incoming Tide 01” and “02.”
Considering the show as a whole, one cannot help but notice the
artist’s low-key versatility and the breadth of her influences. One
series of brushstrokes whispers Van Gogh, while another intimates
Gauguin. Hokusai and the Arts and Crafts movement are also in
evidence, yet none is any more than a murmur in a stream. Standing
in the show, surrounded by its delicate, thoughtful beauty, one has
the impression of looking out at the world through the eyes of a
mystic who once knew her art history well, but who has, in her
bliss, entirely forgotten it.


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.