Landscape and Memory

Featuring recent work by Thomas Monaghan, Robin Denevan, Kevin Sonmor, Cameron Zebrun, Jill McGannon, and Ron Clayton

February 8 through March 11, 2008

Addington Gallery is proud to present “Landscape and Memory”, a group exhibition exploring how memories shape our understanding of the natural world. The exhibition features recent work by Robin Denevan, Kevin Sonmor, Thomas Monaghan, Ronald Clayton, Jill McGannon, and Cameron Zebrun.

Encountering a Robin Denevan painting is a multi-sensory experience. This artist finds his motivation in his memories of trips to various exotic locations. Recent paintings find their origins in journeys down the Amazon, or China’s Yangtze River. But these paintings are not about mere recollection. They are about sensory recall. You don’t just look at a Denevan…you touch it, smell it, nearly taste it. The layers of beeswax, resin, and paint in these works engage our senses, and in doing so, they drop us, not into the location depicted, but into the artist’s own vivid memories of that place.

Thomas Monaghan takes us to the water's edge, and asks us to just be quiet and see what he sees. If we take the time to do so, we are not only rewarded, but transported -- to a lake, a stream, or some body of water we once spent time on, or wish we had. Monaghan is a true believer in the evocative power of paint to engage our memory, and when we spend time with his paintings, we believe, too. In the end, these are not just paintings of water and trees. They are paintings of light. The water and trees are just there to reveal that light to us.

Looking at a Kevin Sonmor painting is like listening to opera with one’s eyes. Sonmor presents his viewers with a broiling sea of emotion, filtered through the lens of art history. As a result, these paintings are at once wholly contemporary and deeply rooted in the myth and legend of ages past. The two lead actors on the stage of these works are a dramatic expression of light, and the powerful physicality of the brush and substance of paint. Watching the drama play out in each piece is a singular experience.

The personal fictions present in the works of Ronald Clayton are both inspiring and challenging. Dualities are at play throughout the work: depth of space and articulated surface, the geometric and the organic, culture and nature, the familiar and the new. Clayton's two lynchpins are the biographical narrative of our experience with particular landscapes, and the imagined architectural ruins he places within them. In turn, we the viewers are placed in these ruins. We find ourselves admiring the work of the hands that created these mysterious structures, all the while longing to experience the untouched vision of nature just beyond our grasp. What a powerful metaphoric image of our ongoing search for a place in this world.

The views in Jill McGannon's paintings are quite literally greater than the sum of their parts. McGannon assembles a particular kind of landscape that is quite often an amalgam of recent experiences in nature. Reacting to the world around her, she is not satisfied to merely record one view. Instead, McGannon recalls and reveals the elements of her various experiences with the land, whether they be humble observations of surrounding plant life, or majestic views of a vast, open sky populated by dramatic clouds, fusing them into a single, personal meta-view. Trees from neighborhoods the artist lives in are figuratively uprooted and re-planted in new locations, and new fictions are created. Each painting is both a mystery to unravel, and a testament to the complexity of our relationship to our personal environment.

Viewing a Cameron Zebrun work can be an unusual and unfamiliar experience – even if you know his work. These pieces defy categorization. They are neither painting nor sculpture, although they embody both processes. One encounters them the way one encounters a new, unfamiliar environment, and that may be the point of the work. All of the components of these unusual pieces – the colors, forms, graphic elements, are all derived from Zebrun’s experiences in the wild, experiences that provide him both pleasure and purpose. Zebrun approaches nature with both a sense of wonder and an incisive eye. And this is how we experience his work. As we journey through these objects, we find our own uncharted course.

Whether motivated by fantasy and personal longing, an obsession with history both private and public, or a search for meaningful metaphor, these six artists all aspire to speak, in the words of author Simon Schama "to the heart of one of our most powerful yearnings: the craving to find in nature a consolation for our mortality." - DA

Review: New City Magazine, February 29, 2008

Landscape and Memory at Addington Gallery

Six artists present the many layers of recalling and presenting nature. The sculpted leaves and bend of a wrought-iron fence mimics the natural background of trees and vines in one of Jill McGannon's paintings. In her bucolic scenes, she mixes experiences; red and green-leaved trees are juxtaposed in a sublime yet realistic portrayal with robust clouds framing the sunlight.

In contrast, Cameron Zebrun collages different imagery from his travels in nature, fixed on sculpture that vaguely resembles a paddle and a canoe. With images of a hurricane’s eye and white-sand beach, viewing his work is like participating in his travels.

In Kevin Sonmor’s work, heavily textured swirls or crimson mark a tempestuous sky, where paint literally drips in a brilliant flash of water. The emotional and physical experience is thus focused with a heavy brush.

Ronald Clayton’s painting of manmade geometric ruins amidst an ideal countryside is metaphorical to the complex human relationship with nature.

The painted trees and water flowing in Thomas Monaghan’s countryside focuses the light of the sun.

Robin Denevan takes the viewer into the process of memory with layers of beeswax, resin and paint, high-lighting images of trees and rivers from his journeys. The works show that emotion and the process of viewing ultimately personalize natural landscapes.

Ben Broeren