Friday, October 5, 2007

Bruce Docker: At the Base of the Hickory Tree


The sharp contrast between the yellow and the black creates an unexpected effect of collage: the leaves appear as if inlaid into the board, as a foreign body. Correspondingly, the shadows seem to have been cut out from the surface. It only takes a small step to conjure up that the cut out pieces are the leaves, basically relocated from one layer to create another. If this indeed were a collage, the process would denote a clever trick of economy and maximal utilization of available materials. But since it is not, I tend to consider this allusion as a more poetic, inspirational and less controlled method of portraying the play of light and shadow on a small but very saturated floral area. Overall, this might be the artist's painterly version of the "flesh from the flesh" idiom.

The ragged edges of the shadows remind of what appears on a movie screen when the film starts to burn during projection. This resemblance triggers the unusual tension resulting from looking at something that is about to be lost, like a last moment opportunity -- and thus, by invoking yet another art form, the artist conveys the momentariness of the scene, as well as his own passing perception of it, not unlike in impressionism. As a side effect, the heat of the sun, which forms the blinding yellows and whites and consequently the shadows, may be additionally envisioned through the association with the technical trouble of overheating. The power of allusion adds up to that of color. As to the colors, I think it's quite amazing how black, usually assigned auxiliary roles, is employed just as actively as any other hue, becoming an active participant in the unfolding scene.

I have always had faith in extreme close-ups such as this one. They have their own charm, ensuing from the amount of detail concentrated on the very limited space -- the very essence of the presented theme. And though this piece is a miniature both in size and theme, it is not such in the aesthetic implications, which may be rich and vast, and which hold their own when compared to any regular landscape. The seemingly untidy and random composition carries an important and adequately self-important message of the beauty of nature; of how it can be found in almost any surroundings. The untidiness is a superficial camouflage of the well thought-out plan that constitutes this painting. Hence, the artist achieves what may be the primary goal of every painter: to make it look easy what was difficult to accomplish.

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