Uptown exhibition puts nature in a new light

Elizabeth Bradford. “Mt. Rogers Fir,” 2014, acrylic on panel.
Elizabeth Bradford. “Mt. Rogers Fir,” 2014, acrylic on panel. Courtesy of the artist and New Gallery of Modern Art

“Patterns of Regeneration,” on view at the New Gallery of Modern Art through Nov. 18, explores traditional, illusory and seldom noticed aspects of the natural world. On one end of the spectrum, the show features richly painted natural scenes. By contrast, others are altered, imagined or could originate at the microscopic level.

According to Carla Hanzal, the show’s inventive guest curator, “Mutable textures and colors, atmospheric conditions, and the quality of light within the landscape inspire the eight featured painters.”

Chatham Kemp, for example, adapts exuberant and intensely colorful brushwork to suggest lush vegetation and the rich textures of the natural world. Painter Neil Callander, in “Magnolia,” paints a remarkable and carefully observed magnolia tree rich in detail, using a circular canvas and a portrait-like format. Nature here appears constrained by the world at the canvas’ edge.

Another artist for whom the natural world provides inspiration is Elizabeth Bradford. “Mt. Rogers Fir” portrays a towering yet dead fir tree, resplendent in and surrounded by nature’s verdant forest. Carlyle Wolfe’s images present “…distinct experiences of natural light and color.” The artist carefully records color modulation and change over time and uses these characteristics as keys to her palette. The artist creatively uses color, light and shadow to render silhouettes or impressions of plant species, curvilinear vines and the landscapes they inhabit.

In “Waking up in Wonderland,” explosions of color, fluid passages of translucent space, and obsessively detailed areas of pattern coalesce in Kimber Berry’s exotic, collaged paintings to form imaginary landscapes. Her technique of adding layer upon layer of superimposed, textured detail creates worlds we might otherwise see under the microscope.

In Hunt Slonem's light-saturated “Bayou” paintings, the artist scores his thickly painted surfaces, fashioning an imposing screen-like grid. The result is reminiscent of the effect post-impressionist painter Georges Seurat achieved with his pointillist dot paintings.

As with Seurat’s pictures, the nearer to Slonem’s image an observer moves, so too does the painting’s representation dissolve into a colorful gridded pattern. Even so, Slonem’s paintings confer upon the landscape a timelessness and one feels a sense of longing for such resplendent moments in the face of industrial, commercial and residential development of our remaining natural resources.

Not an exhaustive survey, the paintings assembled here provide engaging moments, reveal hidden insights and serve as a reminder of the provocation and wonderment that nature, in its myriad manifestations, can provide.

This story was produced as part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance.

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