Susan Breen

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Where Light Rises… Shadows Fall
November 4 – December 30, 2004
Woodward Gallery

  • Web of Reason, 2004
    Oil on wood panel
    20 x 20 inches
  • Where Light Rises, 2004
    Oil on wood panel
    36 x 36 inches
  • Horizon, 2004
    Oil on wood panel
    24 x 24 inches

Taken collectively, Susan Breen’s current body of work almost immediately suggests the twilight process of some elementary particle as it evolves into matter. One may interpret the particleÑthe matterÑto be light, caught in space between the atomic, and the completed shape of its spectrum. Somehow the work seems both ominous and hopeful.

These new paintings may surprise those familiar with the artist’s earlier work, which drew from abstractions of nature and destruction, and whose palette exclusively used gradations of sepia.

But now, color is repeatedly layered and glazed over a sepia foundation, often obliterating it, or leaving only its suggestion. If the sepia tones resembled some kind of early photographic process of some feral state, now each frame appears as if observed under a distorted, microscopic lens, whose refracted view seems to wander around the in-between of its subject. The active quality of the oil’s composition from a distance looks in turns encaustic, and set in stained glass. There is a newness in the sense of motion, to its algorithms, at once cellular and mandalic. An imaginary Spring launched from a past reduced just enough to provide a fertile bed for a new kind of light, perhaps representative of hope, or simply of imagination itself.

This seems to be the telling point of the work: Susan Breen’s work can be said to run laterally to representation as well as expressionism. Rather than articulating an object, or a stateÑi.e., a figure or unconsciousnessÑshe’s chosen neither, and simultaneously extended the past into a coordination of energy: a kind of oil-based representation of an entropic system. Breen’s work has a focal clarity, without losing sense of a constant analog, of the possibility of something else, just around the corner.

Perhaps this is why there is such a strong feeling of dimension and motion, and of light, in her paintings. Breen fuses the particular to the universal: tracings of familiar shapes are placed into a frame of reference with no other boundary than itself. Her work observes the process of becoming, just beyond the unconscious, just before the figure. Something embryonic just as it’s begun to locate the features that may someday identify it. It is a beautiful palingenesis, proof that the imagination, as the result of an evolved process, is capable of creating and recreating evolution itself.

-David Ryan