Light & Dark

This week began with two warm and brilliant days which lulled me into thinking that autumn was not about to leave any time soon. Then on Thursday I woke up to find the sky darkened, the wind howling and the last of the leaves from our purple sandcherry tree on the ground. Somehow winter had surreptitiously appeared overnight. On Friday I braced myself against the wind and walked around the Chelsea galleries with Lynn, something I hadn't done in a long time. I had spent so much time in recent months looking at nature, and it was a luxury to spend a day just looking at art.

Corrida In Rondo no. 2, Eric Fischl

Corrida In Rondo no. 8, Eric Fischl

At Mary Boone gallery, Eric Fischl showed his latest series of paintings, 8 large canvasses depicting the Corrida In Ronda. What caught my eyes in these paintings more than anything else–even the impressively large scale (they are all about 10 feet wide) and the super-saturated colors– is the sense of light. Perhaps because I am a photographer, which makes me hyper-sensitive to the depiction light, but it's something that I find uniform through all his work over the years. The light in Fischl's paintings is consistently hard, a glare that sears across the canvas to cast deep shadows in places and highlights that obliterate details elsewhere. One can only fully appreciate this sense of light when looking at his paintings in real life. The reproductions, in whatever medium, never do it justice.

Besitz, 2006, Tim Eitel

Haufen, Tim Eitel

On the other hand, the young German artist Tim Eitel, whose show at Pace Wildenstein consists of 10 exquisitely painted small-scale and 5 large-scale canvasses, explores a more subtle light, or almost an absence of light. Eitel extracts details – a face, garbage bags, figures in conversation – from photographs and paints them in isolation. Working with a dark palette, with the most subtle gradation of grays, Eitel paints nearly abstract scenes of haunting stillness. As with Eric Fischl, his work has to be appreciated in real life, where the most minute details can be discerned on a seemingly dark canvas, barely a hint of light to illuminate the creases of a plastic garbage bag or the folds on a jacket of a soldier in the shadow. The darkness drives at things hidden and forces a closer look into the nuances and resonances of each scene.

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