Marisa Newman Projects is pleased to present From Blue, new paintings by Helen Beckman. The exhibition title is a reference to the underpainting in blue gouache that Helen Beckman lays down prior to commencing an oil painting. The gouache markings pool and disperse on the gesso surface, creating an opportunity to incorporate or veil its presence with the subsequent addition of oil paint layers. In the finished painting, the blue can play a major role or can almost disappear. Sometimes an imprimatura (a layer of varnish) seals the gouache; other times the velvety surface of the water medium is left to define an area. Similar to Odilon Redon’s quixotic landscape Beckman’s landscapes create an illusion of a real place through an accumulation of marks and suggestive gestures thus subverting traditional pastoral spaces to the point of abstraction.
Beckman spent a few years in the 90's working exclusively with ultramarine blue gouache on a project of primate portraits. These works dealt in liminal times of day and played with ideas of anthropomorphism. When Beckman returned to oil painting, she imported the mood of the blue washes and marks as an underpinning for the worlds created in these paintings.
The work in From Blue is described by the artist as "transmogrified landscapes." We are drawn in by a sense of a specific space, but the threads of that story are cut and re-tied in the process of painting. Each painting coheres at a different density. Beckman states "I prefer a painting to be held together by mysterious rather than obvious forces." Beckman's forms and narratives often sidestep easy definition, but they are definitely born from a love of painterly painting.
Helen Beckman (b.1960) works and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA from Indiana University in 1986.