Think about the landscape in which you grew up. What images come to mind in clarity and which seem to fade behind the haze of time and forgetfulness? When I think about growing up in Nevada, the clear image of a 7/11 “Big Gulp” and the landscape of Pyramid Lake is superimposed over the foggy memories of apartment building sprinklers, hissing at night during the summer. When painter, Ewoud De Groot thinks of his personal landscape, images of swooping owls and ice-covered scenes come to mind. Except, his rendition of these landscapes is not wholly grounded in reality or in the intricate details of overt realism.
The exhibition, A Brush With Nature, presents De Groot’s abstracted and imagined renderings of the landscapes he is most familiar with juxtaposed with images of wildlife—most often birds. It is easy to dismiss these works as pointillist wildlife paintings, however, in conversing with the artist, I came to view them not as depicting a real or literal place in time, but rather as metaphors for his memories of these places and the animals that inhabit them.
When viewing the works in person I was struck by the glow and layering of the paint, the expressive gestural marks, and even the textured surfaces created from the process of letting the paintings dry outside. All of these components capture the very nature of memory: it’s layers, its malleability, and its moments of clarity and moments of haze. Ultimately the paintings in A Brush With Nature bring together the relationship between representation/abstraction and fantasy/reality in order to create an atmospheric image that evokes a sense of place that goes beyond literal illustration.
Don’t sell these paintings short; in an age in which we increasingly consume art through our digital devices, it seems as if only the art that is overtly controversial or aesthetically slick captures our second-long attention spans and gets our likes. De Groot’s paintings don’t buy into these trends; his paintings are carefully crafted and are the result of his many experiments and playful manipulation of paint, and thus they require the viewer to slow down and most importantly to be in physical proximity to them in order to fully experience them.
If you go:
What: “A Brush With Nature” exhibit by Ewoud De Groot
When: May 10 – June 9, 2018
Where: Stremmel Gallery, 1400 S Virginia St.
By Häsler R. Gómez