Bill Maynes Gallery
In her new show, Andrea Belag does a lot with a little. The ten oil paintings that line the wall at Bill Maynes Gallery are touched very lightly with little paint. Their surfaces glisten liquid smooth due to the gloss varnish that covers them and the sable brush Belag uses to paint them. They seem to have been painted in one sitting. The raw canvas shows at times. Each mark, scumbled, wiped, pulled, or pushed, seems fresh.
In the front room are a series of four arresting paintings entitled "Blue Window 1–4." Here Belag uses the compositional strategy to which she rigorously adheres throughout the show: two lateral bands of vertical color compressing a central band of horizontal blocks, a view from a window.
"Blue Window 3" is a bold and engaging painting that relies on subtle variation in paint quality for its illusion. Two dark bands of deep blue push the eye into a central rectangle of washy cerulean-ochre representing distant space. A deep burgundy red borders below (a window seat?) and to the right, a narrow band of cool umber, thinned to a flake-like consistency that suggests a curtain. Belag is a generous artist who gives us what we need to know, but she also allows a great deal of room for the viewer to imaginatively complete her paintings.
Belag’s suggestive way with paint lends itself to landscape. When she deviates from this motif, her paintings weaken. "Kimono" and "Sash," for instance, both seem less confident than her window paintings. "Ghost," the weakest painting in the show, seems to have no grounding at all in optical experience.
When Belag denies herself the illusion of cool, atmospheric space, her paintings tend to become stuffy. "Grove" is an interesting painting, the subtle greens and browns of which do indeed conjure the feel of a quiet, tree-enclosed space. But its tonal monotony and lack of illusionistic space draw too much attention to the glossy surface and give the painting an artificial feel.
Belag is clearly a talented painter whose gift for experimentation with the qualities of oil paint seems a well of inspiration for new paintings. At times, however, she limits this potential with her choice of subject matter. In future work she might choose motifs that further highlight her ability to create delicate atmosphere.
ContributorBenjamin La Rocco