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From ART NEW ENGLAND contemporary art and culture magazine July/Aug 2011
Reviews: Massachusetts

MARTHA ARMSTRONG: VERMONT LANDSCAPES
The Oxbow Gallery - Northampton, MA - www.oxbowgallery.org - June 27 thru July 21, 2011

For the past fifteen years, painter Martha Armstrong has interpreted the view from her Vermont cottage, portraying the area with a mixture of recollection and spontaneity. In 'Vermont Landscapes', the viewer follows the seasons of this mountainside, watching the summer trees and autumn red forms dart across the canvas. Along the way, Armstrong introduces sawing fence poles as anchor points to distinguish the vicinity, and as she aids the viewer in discerning the scale of the forest. Tactile brushstrokes, inlaid side by side, define shapes that meander between abstraction and representation. In 'Riff on Red', distant strokes of evergreens incise into the pale sky and embed into pattern, while a fiery hardwood protrudes over the brooding branch marks. An occasional unnatural color, such as the center purple patch in 'Riff on Red', accents the musicality of Armstrong's brushwork and elaborates on her refreshingly personal take on the location.
Armstrong deviates from rendering a particular moment in time. Instead, the artist skillfully pieces together the qualities of light and color as the sun shifts. In the painting 'Two Purple Poles', Armstrong affixes scraps of time- the pea green ground abuptly switches into plum and teal-tinged shadows. An arch of yellow complements the warm greens that rise higher than other planes of constructed space. The viewer acquires an intimate understanding of place due to Armstrong's articulation of color. Limitless saturations of green, prominently mixed directly on the canvas, sprout and thrive in Armstrong's paintings.
Throughout 'Vermont Landscapes', Armstrong's comprehensive brushwork ranges from composed forms to apprehensive contours. Foregrounds and backdrops converge, producing a tense spatial arrangement of animate marks and chroma. In 'Mock Orange', the distant hardwoods swathed in daylight diagonally slit thru space. Orange leaves jump forward from their rendered and assumed distance, and interchange between precise marks and smeared paint. 'Mock Orange's zigzagging red leaves divide the landscape through boundaries of color, and create realms that resemble a fragmented half-formed memory. 'Vermont Landscapes' demonstrates how Armstrong devotedly regards her mountainside view as a flourishing area that will keep asking to be reinvented.

-Carand Burnet

 

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