(1) "Marie in Pool", o/c, 36 x 24", 1995.
(2) "Huntington Beach at Sunset" (detail), o/c, 36 x 48", 1995.
(3) "Dog's Beach--Huntington Beach", o/c, 36 x 48", 1995.
(4) "Palm Canyon", o/c, 66 x 90", 1995.
by Marge Bulmer
(Orlando Gallery, San Fernando Valley)
Susan Clover paints a floating world that transports the viewer back to
memories of lazy vacation times. Hers is a quiet world of contemplation.
It is the good life in which the characters, free from daily conflict, daydream
their time away. We see no homelessness, no gritty urban scenes of violence,
no social comment, no unruly children or pesky teenagers splashing. There
aren't even threatening clouds warning of rough seas ahead. Where young
surfers appear, they are out of the water, carrying their boards, gazing
back at the ocean at sunset.
Obviously cognizant of her art historical background, Clover most connects to the Impressionists, concentrating on reflected light and the play of colors against one another. Like Hockney, she loves the way light patterns form in swimming pools. Like many California painters, she is seduced by the pink light at sunset and the bold mid-day light that produces vibrant color. The theatricality of her idealized vision of beautiful people living in comfort is reminiscent of Alex Katz, who uses the good life to explore formal issues.
In Palm Canyon two women in summer floppy hats and full dresses sit by the shore of a lake, one sitting casually in shallow water. They seem to be having a conversation, but the body language is not animated, and although one may wonder about the content of the exchange, the viewer is more fascinated with paint and color than narrative. Lavendar, blue, and pink swirls of water reflect the greens, yellows, and browns of tall grasses that surround the lake. Light dances off water, illuminating the figures in clear afternoon sunshine.
In Huntington Beach at Sunset a man and a woman, their backs to the viewer, stroll along the watery shore, a small dog trailing on a loose leash. A slight breeze brushes the woman's skirt, and the calm ocean reflects a strip of pink-orange sky. The step is so leisurely that the dog barely moves. The viewer feels a separation of time, placed outside, watching and remembering a personal experience. The coolness and distance coupled with the warmth of nostalgia separates the paintings from present tense and evaporates into a palimpset of memory.
In this group of paintings, the water seems to move while the figures are almost motionless. Absent from this body of work, which was more prevelant previously, are sexual overtones-no pubescent girls resting their hand on a young man's abdonen while exchanging a heated glance.
The narrative is less important, so that it is the tension of the movement of light and color against still figures that captures your attention. The mundane subject matter becomes palpable color, the figures merely structuring the composition rather than dominating.
Susan Clover is among those artists who embrace the belief that nothing can substantiate synchronous surface effects or can indicate fluid content like a painting.