A ‘Voyage’ Into Light in Bridgehampton
Mark Borghi’s Bridgehampton gallery is showing a group of recent works by Liz Doyle, a painter who lives in Northwest Ireland and works in the relatively new medium of pigment in oil and soft cold wax on board or canvas.
Through this process, which results in a thin and luminous surface (somewhat akin to encaustic, but not as toxic) that she can rough up, carve into, or layer, she is able to create distillations of landscape, honed down to a mere suggestion of a time or place. The show’s title, “Voyage,” seems to imply many such transmutations of places, sometimes near to her Donegal County island home and farther away, perhaps recollections from a youth and life spent in Germany, Nepal, England, and Wales.
So nonspecific are many of her subjects that there can be a veiled hint of the East End in her suggestions of sea and pink sky. But there are also structures that look like caves, portals, bridges, and interiors. “Donegal,” one of the larger paintings in the gallery, has references to a townscape enveloped in mist. A number of paintings here refer to Harlem, in New York City, where she spent some time this year and was inspired by new colors and paint supplies unavailable at home. These are some of the most abstract of all of her paintings, rendering such references seemingly purposefully meaningless.
According to the gallery, “the artist notes how the horizon is a constant presence in her life.” She seems to think and create in multiples. Many of these paintings are numbered one and two and are obviously related in palette and composition. They look great side by side. When they are not in the gallery it promotes a sense of anticipation and loss, like a phantom limb. The exception is “Harlem Tiny,” a series in which the works look nothing like each other. Still others are rendered in actual diptychs.
Many artists have a challenging enough time coming up with one subject. Ms. Doyle appears to think serially, and these pieces are some of her most engaging. They afford the viewer a chance to see the development of an idea over several works. In the easel-sized “Blue on Blue #1,” a ruddy red band bisects the canvas horizontally, perhaps like a bridge over the two muddy but pretty blue areas above and below. These sections take on the look of a murky but seemingly moonlit body of water. In “Blue on Blue #2,” the visual elements and palette are the same, but the red band now runs vertically, like a tree in a forest at nighttime.
Her diptychs on view are on small boards. “For Joan Diptych” is a light and lively composition with a base of blue-violet and gold dappled with daubs of opaque white, like a stratus-clouded sky. The piece was inspired by Joan Mitchell, but isn’t mere copying. It has a life and purpose of its own.
Of her largest works, “Voyage,” for which the show is named, is a pretty and welcoming canvas with hues of pink, violet, red, and olive green. “Lugh’s Portal,” which measures about 3 by 7 feet, has a dramatic effect, as the artist lets her colors intensify from the muted tones of some of the other works. Backlit from the center, the painting has a menacing quality. Lugh is an Irish sun god who is also connected to the arts. The light being brought to darkness and the fiery center gather meaning in this context. Unlike many of her paintings here, this one has a point of entry, no doubt the portal of the title. The question is would one want to enter this intimidating landscape, perhaps a metaphor for the pursuit of creativity. Is it the ultimate destination or just the point of no return?
The exhibition is on view through Nov. 30.