by Peter Illig, Sunday, November 7, 2010
Painter Sharon Feder’s work fills the main gallery at Ironton Studios. The paintings are hung neat and orderly but they reveal nothing less than the hidden tensions of contemporary life.
Oil paintings of quotidian scenes and subjects: commercial spaces, warehouse districts, gas stations. Geometric shapes suggested by old buildings and modern businesses. Muted complex browns and grays, accented by reds and sky blues. Highly personal brushstrokes remind us of the materiality of paint and subject. But these spaces are not what they seem. They stand in for human relationships, analogous to isolation, despair and the constant contradictions of appearance versus truth.
Ostensibly, these are buildings with commercial promise but closed and empty. But let me add, before the reader thinks Feder’s work is negative or cynical, that her sharp vision redeems the spaces, finds the visually exciting composition, color contrast, and implied human narrative that takes our observations of the work to a higher level. This is not a cold, hard clinical view of the world, but a view filtered through the warm human sensibilities of an accomplished artist. The starkly cropped view of a scene is modulated by sensuous paint and color combinations. An example: two metal barrier poles in a parking lot, seem like a couple of characters in a play, red and worn, performing their role on a stage of gray and brown, lit from the side.
Familiarity is deceiving. We have seen these places many times; we take them for granted. Feder’s images themselves are not shocking but ring true to our lives, if we are familiar with urban areas. We recognize the shine of glass, painted metal, and the expanses of concrete. It is a distinctly American and Western place. The sunlight that fills the American West strikes obliquely, unmitigated, and a hint of distant hills can sometimes be seen behind the brash metal and concrete. Shadows play a role here. They stretch across the empty spaces, reminding us of the lateness of the day, and the time we have left.
What can we conclude about this series of paintings? Like most art works they are about the inner self — a portrait of the artist’s mind at a certain point in time. Ordered spaces, with exterior layers that show evidence of the passage of time and exposure, but with hints of intimacy and full of surprises. Interiors that are hidden and unknown. Paradoxes that will remain so.
After looking hard at Ms. Feder’s paintings, I was offered a private glimpse by the artist, in a backroom, of her future series: a new painting that I will not describe here, but offers new, even more complex vision, and direction.
‘The Art Of Saming’, Sharon Feder.
through December 4th, 2010, at Ironton Studios, Denver