Artist Profiles | Visual Arts

Jean Arnold Has Been Up To Something

by John Erickson


photo of Jean Arnold’s work table by Steve Coray.

Jean Arnold has been “up to something.” Her transformation from competent observer to a mature personal voice spans ten years of hard work — as a friend, for years I have watched this evolution first hand. She has eschewed the expected use of perspective and chiaroscuro to find a language beyond the pat categories of figurative or abstract.

Arnold’s images come from the urban landscape. She improvises from nature and freely reorganizes space. Facts are subordinated in favor of a plasticity activated by the interplay of relationships, rather than the illustration of “things.” Forms arrive swollen, resonant, and oddly classical in their simplification. Volumes breathe and exhale. Colors emerge, compose and disappear into the grunge of tonal harmony. Opposites conflict and synthesize. Picture plane is held in tension.

An unexpected surreal dimensionality begins to live its own rambunctious life. Bee-bop-like rather than impressionistic, Arnold’s paintings “get the job done” with a surprising pictorial rightness. Deceivingly simple and elegant, this hard won language has been fought for. Resolute observations mixed with imaginative freedom are her trademark. Jean Arnold is “up to something.”


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