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Sharon Ellis, Mojave Night, 2022, alkyd on paper, 16 1/4 x 20 1/2 inches. All images courtesy of the artist and Kohn Gsllery.

Sharon Ellis: New works on paper

Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles

From September 24 to October 29, 2022

BY LITA BARRIE, October 2022

Sharon Ellis has always been drawn to the romantic art and poetry of the mid-1800s. From the great English landscape painters William Turner and John Constable to the Pre-Raphaelite painters (especially Edward Burne-Jones) and the German artist Casper David Friedrich, passing through the English romantic poets William Wordsworth, John Keats and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, all were inspired by nature. -walks.

Ellis moved from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree because she “likes the romantic aspect of desert.” Today, Joshua Tree has become an artists’ colony that attracts more artists from Los Angeles because it’s affordable and close enough for artists to pursue their careers in Los Angeles art scene.

Ellis is an “artist’s artist” who has always been admired for her love of painting. She uses several alkyd enamels (a modern oil paint) to create hyper-saturated colors and create a translucent effect reminiscent of Renaissance paintings. His little gem-like works are so painstaking intensive, they take months to complete, making an Ellis exhibition an infrequent event that other artists are looking forward to. This exhibition coincides with his participation in the 2022 Calfornia Biennale at the Orange County Museum of Art.

Sharon Ellis, Morning Sun, 2018, alkyd on paper, 23 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches.

New works on paper is Ellis’ first exhibition at the Kohn Gallery, and it is installed to show the power that small easel-sized paintings can have when hung alone or in small pairs on a large wall in a space. of monumental gallery. It reminded me of the power of small paintings by Johannes Vermeer, because they are as alive as a beating heart.

Ellis likes to live in her imagination, and she paints imaginary landscapes inspired by photographs she took during her nature walks. She told me, “the source of everything I do comes from a vision that I see in my head” and that “the most important part is the story”. In effect, her paintings have a narrative quality reminiscent of Emily Brontё The Wuthering Heights. Although the nights in the high desert are much hotter and drier, gusty like the windswept moors of England.

In today’s art economy, where successful artists are pushed to become factory CEOs studios full of assistants who produce trademark artwork, Ellis’s meticulously handcrafted oil paintings remind us that the physical intensity of a painting moves us emotionally cannot be accomplished with someone else’s sweat – only the artist’s. Ellis often works as up to four paints simultaneously because she uses so many layers of alkyd to create her signature enamels of deep blue and purple colors electrified by bright pinks, magentas, purples and the yolks.

Ellis’s imaginary jewel-like desert landscapes take anywhere from two months to a year. She works gradually, using several clear coats of thinned alkyd, to build up a film that renders its more vibrant hyper-saturated colors – creating the dazzling quality of Old Master paintings. Its warm and cool super colors also electrify nature, creating an almost otherworldly vibe.

Sharon Ellis, Into Darkness, 2018, alkyd on paper, 23 3/4 x 27 1/4 inches.

In his previous exhibition at the Christopher Grimes Gallery in 2014, Ellis investigated patterns perceived time in the recurring symmetries of nature and the fractal universe of self-similars patterns that repeat on microcosmic and macrocosmic scales – from terrestrial flora to outer space galaxies. In this exhibition, she referenced Celtic folklore and scientific fractal imagery. His love of nature and the different ways it can be interpreted is well informed by the wide range of cultural interests that she combines: from classical literature, contemporary science and classical art, to modern abstraction and fractal imagery.

Ellis makes drawings from photographs, stylizing everything she sees. She “research physical realities that I can transform into visions in [her] imagination.” In the heat of summer, the suns look like a profusion of shining stars, sandstorms and whirlwinds become color clouds, and stylized rock desert tree formations and silhouettes assume a gothic presence. Ellis is a master of space depth, and she uses vast expanses of brightly colored empty space to create a recessed space. In Mojave Night, Ellis creates an ethereal abstraction of the Milky Way that looks pink and magenta gas. In the foreground are black silhouettes of desert trees and the receding space is filled with a storm of soft pink sand. In gloomy summer day, a juniper tree is the central focus against the background of magic blue clouds. The heat of summer features a pink sky with yellow suns, and this forms an abstract background on which ominous black silhouettes of the desert the trees are superimposed. In darkness is a more gothic abstraction with black daisies in the foreground against an indigo sky, also reflecting a sandstorm.

Sharon Ellis, Mojave Night, 2022, alkyd on paper, 16 1/4 x 20 1/2 inches (detail). All images courtesy of the artist and Kohn Gsllery.

Although Ellis was raised Southern Baptist, she rejected these fundamentalist beliefs when she was thirteen years old. As she describes it, she first felt a “sense of loss”, but then nature became her church. She says she sees nature ‘in an almost pantheistic way’ after discovering magic qualities of the universe. After a breakup with her high school boyfriend, Ellis began to absorb Nineteenth-century transcendentalist philosophy through the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it was Emerson who really changed his life. She gained confidence-building independence from his most famous essay, “Self-Reliance” (1841), and renounced all need approval by learning to trust your intuition. Since then, she has continued her career very individualistic path, painting imaginative universes that draw on the Renaissance and the Romantic aesthetic principles as well as their obsessive know-how. At the same time, it combines abstraction – influenced by early 20th century artists Georgia O’Keefe and Joseph Stella – in her exquisite syntheses of natural forms through highly imaginative compositions.

Ellis imbues perceptual complexities with an ethereal, mystical quality that immediately draws the spectator in the “story” of each painting. Imaginary art – like imaginary literature – allows the viewer to use their own imagination to make further visual connections with other things they have observed in nature. Rarely have I seen this existential function of art performed as well as Ellis captured it in this long-awaited exhibition. WM

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