Ms. Thelma Appel is a painter whose work clearly represents a natural development and extension of the artistic thinking of the immediate past.
The central subject in her work is landscape. Landscape painting, and in fact most painting, has historically been treated as foreground, middleground and background. Ms. Appel’s paintings, however, destroy the illusion of space. Instead, her filaments and shapes float on the surface of the canvass in a charming network of gauzy intricacies.
The various ideas about how to represent three dimensional form on a two dimensional picture plane have preoccupied artists since the Renaissance. Modern painting especially has explored and redefined the representation of value in space. No sooner was one pictorial mode explored than it was challenged. Most recently the idea of foreground and background in painting was entirely destroyed by a group of painters known as minimalists. The canvasses of these painters are usually severe and the shapes geometric. In many paintings the play between foreground and background is shattered, reduced to one plane only.
Ms. Appel’s easy un-selfconscious works seem to have little relationship to this school of painting, however, they are a logical development of the thinking of the minimalists. The fragmentation of poorly defined shapes and the sameness of color and tonality make for painting in which forms seem to float on one plane rather than recede into the background. This forms the kind of relationships common to much minimal painting.
Ms. Appel’s originality lies in the irony of her having chosen landscapes to express her ideas. Like many young painters, Appel is reacting to the spare palette and form which prevailed only a few years ago.
While it is true that these paintings are intellectual, it is also true that they’re romantic pieces, poetic expressions of a feminine sensibility. The filmy colors are marvelous and fresh and the artist’s feather-light touch brushes the canvass, enfusing it with lush texture.
One may appreciate these paintings for their intellectual content, but to respond only to their sensuality is equally valid. After all, one need not understand the structure and development of a Bach suite to be moved by its beauty.
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