I was glad to see Simonian’s casually attired paintings on display in Chelsea. Their relaxed fit suited my eye nicely after the formal rigor of Mr Taffe’s well coiffed wardrobe, and the general slick-a-tude of most big money galleries in the area.
Not that Simonian is fashion conscious; au contraire, her art originates from workman-like diligence, and dedication to her painterly identity. But the show is a departure from earlier work that focused on looser picture plane architecture.
This exhibit features compositions venturing into more ambitious territory including theatrical, and still life elements that combine less strictly representational schemes with a dream-like narrative.
These paintings seem like a natural extension of what the artist has witnessed, filtered through various sensations of mood and atmosphere, finally emerging as a quasi-fictional scenario.
|Judith Simonian, 2013, Extreme Ikebana, Acrylic on canvas, 64h x 84w in.|
Perhaps not particularly cognitively acute in their conceptual origins, the work relies primarily on a keen sense of time and place, coupled with an astute comprehension of pictorial texture. This is the artist’s strong suit; letting her native abilities coalesce into well-construed images that succeed on their own terms, wavering between the here and now, and less defined stratifications.
My favorite paintings in the show were the still-life pieces in the last room that got right to the point of what the joy of picture making is all about. Slippery fish glisten on layers of softly undulating tints of thinly applied pigment, slathered on with a deft touch. Convincing volumetric fleshiness provides a dead fish with a fresh nod to Chardin’s forte.
|Judith Simonian, 2012, Big Catch Acrylic on canvas, 44h x 60w in.|
But there is more to Simonian’s craft then just painting from lovely, though unprepossessing scenery. The larger scale canvases delve into a montage format that must have been tricky to paint, but Simonian manages to pull it off. This is a good example of how a mature painter with many years behind the brush can achieve a symbiosis of sorts. Although they might not be the most graceful of gestures, there is an engaging overall charisma resulting from a savvy grasp of painting fundamentals.
The montages use an effective picture-within-a-picture conceit, slippery dimensions of tight edged planes containing crisply painted ’scapes shuffle over a background of more diaphanous regions inhabited by less defined relationships. This contrast of context and content sets up a nice tension that could relate to moments theatrical or filmic drama.
|Judith Simonian, 2010, Sperlonga in Norway, Acrylic on canvas, 54h x 46w in.|
Dream imagery also enters into the equation, not so much on a psychological level as much as sensory. Since dreams are the most primal creative act, a less literal narrative in the artist’s work lends an authentic feel to the ample interpretative possibilities found herein relating to non-waking inspiration.
|Judith Simonian, 2013, Blue Feast, Acrylic on canvas, 61h x 72w in.|
Simonian epitomizes the “painters painter” ethos, working for her own edification more than a market. Of course, we all aspire to exhibit in a space as beautiful as what Ed Thorpe provides, and we also hope to sell enough work to establish a niche.
But I’d imagine the most important reward for this artist and others lucky enough to have found a way to make art all their lives, is to continue the marvelous adventure any way we can.