"The Painterly Figure" by Donald Kuspit

From ArtNet Magazine
Published March 22, 2007

THE PAINTERLY FIGURE

by Donald Kuspit

“Speyer’s pictures convey something very different — life at its most vital, indeed, the renewal of spiritual life, as her glorious trees, miraculously reborn in Spring, suggest. The trees are surrogate figures — complex bodies, that however sometimes gnarled and twisted and old, like Speyer herself, still burst with life. Speyer is over 80, and her paintings show that late style need not dwell on death, need not be depressing: hope not only springs eternal, but art also can, even in the modern world. Old Oak Tree (2006) makes the point decisively: the tree is not yet dead, however much it has suffered the vicissitudes of time. Even the Dead Limbs on Patience Brook (2006) flow and glow with the lively, color-rich brook.

As in all great nature painting, nature romantically represents the exciting depths of human nature in Speyer’s paintings. Both natures have their seasons, and each is implicit in the other. But what makes Speyer’s trees trully alive — whether corpse-like or hanging on for dear life — is her painterly handling, simultaneously forceful and refined, an infinite and intimate combination of subtle color-tones, to refer to Kandinsky’s remarks, driven by deep inner necessity.

Sometimes the pictures are “cropped,” to make the trees “outstanding,” but it is the painterliness that carries the confrontation — makes the trees uncanny and “forward,” so that we can see every detail of their bark and the lability of their leaves. For all the thickness of Speyer’s paint — its density helps mythologize the trees, suggesting that they might once have been Daphne-like maidens — there is something judicious and parsimonious in its application. There is no sense of waste, or intoxicating excess, however Dionysian the final effect. There is a kind of calm elation and innocent glory."

(full article here— http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit3-22-07.asp)

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