New Italian Landscape Monotypes by Charles W. Goolsby
The Italian word, Sfumato, refers literally to
the non-definitive painted or inked edge that blurs and oscillates between
lightness and darkness. It is this momentary state that gives rise and
recognition to the creation of illusionary form. It is here, in-between
shimmering impressions where light and shadow traverse, suggesting that
each is necessary for the other to speak. One is reminded that a picture,
any picture, is a construction of our world. It is within these transitory
translations that remain present in material, in motion, and in memory,
that a picture may be read and interpreted, continually. It is in this
interactive synergy where the paintings and monotypes of Charles W. Goolsby
reside and remain alive, forever speaking.
Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty has presented the phenomenological ideas
between the interfacing boundaries of subject and object, that may be
said to parallel the illuminative pathways into Goolsby’s work:
The body, is never just an object in the world, but the very medium
whereby our world comes into being, it is through this communication that
we are located and defined(1).
Goolsby’s recent Italian monotypes of 2002 make evident the connection
between the subtle and seductive skin of the plate’s surface
and the artist. One can say that Goolsby is forever tethered to the skin
of the picture. Through formalist means, he offers experiential sites
that affect our kinesthetic selves immeasurably. His works articulate
the rapid transformations of ephemeral radiant light that has the holding
power of stabilizing forms in place. Process makes this evident. Whether
it is pushing material around on a canvas or a zinc plate, or the conscious
rearrangement of shifting viewpoints and planes in space, or in the physical
process of the artist, who emotionally has immersed himself into the lush
filled ancient beauty of the Italian landscape, all brings rise to things
yet unnamed. As audience to these new monotypes, we too make direct contact.
This is what brings about our engaged excitement to his work.
Within Goolsby’s inked and painted constructed worlds, framed landscapes
are presented as liminal ports where form and content remain
in pause - as if coming up for air. It is in this pregnant pause
where light meets darkness, space meets form, abstraction meets representation,
and temporality meets stasis bringing about the complexity of his work
and its ability to transport us, magically. In these landscapes, where
the gasp for humid-filled-air is thick and almost too stifling dense,
lie the potential to acquire meaning from their highly constructed fields.
Here, the blinding sunlight gives way to somber shadowed space bringing
about the pleasures that connect us to the printed surfaces. We are no
longer on the marginal fringes of Otherness, but are situated
at their thresholds. Through sensitive composition,
and where sfumato gives rise to things known and unknown, we
are about to take our first steps into these ambiguous terrains.
In looking at the artist’s Italian monotypes, we
are offered multiple entranceways into them. At once, they are Albertian
windows; the linear perspectival system that was invented in
the Italian Renaissance that incorporated the use of orthogonals to recede
into constructed spaces for our eyes to drift along. Goolsby is a constructor
of these spaces and certainly knows the system of linear perspective.
The monotypes are portals that function as lenses onto spaces that unfold
before us. As the architect of these vestiges, Goolsby’s work operates
as apertures that offer radial expansion of focal points scattering across
the pictorial plane in all directions, suggesting no hierarchical arrangement
of forms or to the space in which they adhere. Thus, importantly, denoting
that all components that architectonically are situated within the pictorial
surface share equal footing.
Liminal ports, entranceways, and windows serve as frameworks to support
Goolsby's diaphanous atmospheres, igniting the notion that spatial conditions
are in constant ebb and flow. It is within these locations-non-locations
that connections between interior to exterior, image to idea, subject
to object, and artist to world exist. Gestural marks take us through Goolsby’s
dramatic interpretations only to repel us back out again through the circular
motion of chiaroscuro. The fluid monotypes are sites created by the push
and pulls made by the artist’s body. Freely and openly, Goolsby
masterfully orchestrates each composition through the undulation of light
and dark, illumination and ambiguity, form and space, allowing our attention
to be absorbed by each, only for us to return to them again and again.
We are given the freedom to wander through and fully embody the printed
solitudes. Our gaze catapults us inside these mythic places which are
punctuated by everyday things: a bush, a tree, a shadow, a pathway, Italian
archways and ominous courtyards, the blinding light of open swelling skies.
Each printed reflection is devoid of human presence – we enter,
we wander, we experience worlds that we now fill with our own human activity.
It is here where presence and absence join. Scrutinized memory sheds light
on histories. The addition and subtraction of Goolsby’s activated
and sophisticated mark making system gives attention to the specificities
of place that propel our gaze.
At the heart of Goolsby’s work dramatic lighting concerns emphasize
atmospheric conditions and their traces. It is within this activity -
Goolsby’s sensitivity and bravura - that marks reside and dwell,
giving rise to dream like places; a suspended residence for spatial
concerns, where abstraction meets representation just this side of recognition.
How can one moment, one expression, one presentation translate the ancient
Italian landscape essentially and completely? Goolsby has said that the
excitement for him is making his return to a new plate, a new canvas to
begin again. He is a thoughtful communicator of visual expression where
he submerges himself thoroughly into the journey. It is in the risk taking
and questioning, in the seeking out concerns and answers that Goolsby
is freely willing to accept of his spirit. This type of trip taking
propels oneself into alternative places and into the unknown, where one
may take up residence, if only for a while. Through commitment of expressive
gesture and meaningful artistic practice, we inherently respond with livened
eyes to Goolsby’s new monotypes. It is within these painterly passages
and porous utterances made from inked plates that embed reflections onto
paper where Goolsby’s work speaks to temporality and the specificities
of space as transitional locations that oscillate seamlessly between interior
and exterior, space and structure, abstraction and reality, self and world.
Jennifer Pepper, Alfred University, March 2003
Jennifer Pepper, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Alfred University
since 2000, is a visual artist whose sculptural work and drawings have
been exhibited nationally and internationally since 1990. Pepper has been
an invited artist in residence to The Corporation of Yaddo (2000), Sculpture
Space, Inc. (1997), Millay Colony for the Arts (1995) all located in NY
State, Anam Cara Artists Colony, County Cork, Ireland (2001), Foundation
Valparaiso, Spain (2003) and The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts
where she had the pleasure of being an artist in residence along with
Charles W. Goolsby in 2002.
(1) Merleau-Ponty’s work is cited
and deconstructed throughout; Drew Leder; The Absent Body; The University
of Chicago Press, 1990.