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June 30 - July 28 at Milo Gallery, West Hollywod

by Andy Brumer

Jill Sykes, "Aire Libre," 2007,
oil on canvas, 36 x 48".

Jill Sykes, "Big Joss II," 2007,
oil on canvas, 30 x 36".

If the expression, “you can’t tell the forest from the trees” posits that an overly generalized formulation of an experience obscures, if not annihilates, its detailed and nuanced meanings, then Jill Sykes’ and Michelle Stitz’s painting of flowers, forests and trees arrives in the nick of time to save the day. After all, nature loves to repeat itself in fractal-like, obsessive patterns. By contrast, art celebrates the uniqueness of forms that can only flow from the limitless font of human imagination.

Sykes executes her botanical paintings, that hover between figuration and abstraction, in tastefully muted earth tones, while Stitz’s oil-in-resin paintings present forests and flowers in their full mythical, dream-like and mystical splendor.

Though Sykes paints her petals and leaves opaquely, they nevertheless metaphorically express both boldness and vulnerability (i.e. the courage to be delicate).  What’s more, these forms, and her branches and stems, become the building blocks these works cum abstract compositions, where the negative spaces betwixt and between the solid objects form intricate and alluring geometric shapes, which the artist treats with an equal amount of painterly loving care.

Think of Cezanne’s insights into nature’s (and art’s) underlying architectonic structural geometry meeting Matisse’s ecstatic delight in life’s freedom and lyrical flow, and you’ll gain some insight into Sykes’ considerable gifts, presented without an ounce of pretence in this show.

Poet Robert Bly has written that a forest casts a primordial aura, and that those who enter often become silent, as if listening to a supra-human type of music. Stitz’s oil embedded in resin paintings of a forest, which occupy one gallery wall (paintings of flowers and leaves take up another) have this same effect. In fact Stitz composes her forest out of several individual paintings of various sizes, which she groups into clusters on the wall, perhaps to simulate the way trees often grown in contained groups in the woods. In an artist’s statement, Stitz describes this forest as a place she once visited and one to which she longs to return.

She also acknowledges their dream-like quality, and their allusion to Carl Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious, which states that at its depth, the psyche of people, even those historical who lived in cultures that had little or no contact with one another, produce virtually identical dream and/or art images. Likewise, the density and texture of these paintings create the illusions of pulsing, breathing three-dimensional corridors, which invite viewers to wander in, perhaps in search of adventure or their souls. Stitz augments the sensation of her work’s psychological weight and depth (or perhaps counter-balances it) by enclosing each painting within a rather heavy, a one-and-a-half-inch thick solid steel boarder.

Stitz’s paintings of flowers and leaves occupy a relaxed and ethereal space, as do Sykes’. However, whereas Sykes presents her foliage for the most part naturally, that is to say, configured with the familiar look of leaves on actual branches and/or stems, Stitz’s splays hers loosely across her picture plane, so that the leaves and petals resemble those blown by the wind, or perceived in a dream, where they may, as they appear in some of these works, transform themselves into   fish swimming in an aquarium. Let’s see Mother Nature do that!

Michelle Stitz, "Untitled Mare Tranquil-
litatis," 2007, oil and resin, 8 1/2 x 5".

Michelle Stitz, group of 7 "Forest" pieces, oil
on resin in metal frames, 47 x 26 x 1 1/2".