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Joseph Walantini - 2001
Artist Profile: Abstract Art Online: November

Claire Seidl has been exhibiting her art since the mid 1970's. Her paintings and drawings have been included in numerous exhibitions as well as being represented in many public collections. Her most recent exhibition was at Rosenberg + Kaufman Fine Art this past spring and was reviewed in these pages.

When encountering the paintings of Claire Seidl, two things draw your interest. First, the masterful way in which they are created; i.e., the application and layering of paint and color. Each piece manages to get it just right, the marvelous combination of control and spontaneity. Next, their often somber demeanor, which immediately recalls the paintings of Albert Pinkham-Ryder and John Singer-Sargent. It’s as though Seidl has managed to lift an essence of mood from these artists’ paintings without the baggage of referential subject matter. Because of these qualities, the work effectively becomes seductive in drawing your interest. A good part of Seidl’s approach has to do with respectivefully making use of the tradition of painting along with tapping into the rich vein of art history.

Having acknowledged the obvious, these paintings are about a great deal more than an update of 19th and 20th century romantic painting. Despite the atter references, Seidl is a confirmed abstractionist and these paintings are quite forward in exploring other venues as well. Look at the manner in which she dodges back and forth between pure abstraction while hinting at figurative references. This work seems in perfect balance and goes well beyond the notion of a ‘little of this then a little of that’. In fact, so seamless is the combination that you easily dispense with recognizing one or the other. This opens up the work to wider interpretation while expanding its subject matter.

Subject matter in these paintings is personalized and yet general in such a way as to make them accessible. There is a strong sense of 'place' contained within them that seems to conjure up familiar landscapes for us. The beautiful thing about this is that the specifics are not important; we don't know (or need to know) to where they refer. Part and parcel of the experience is the dream-like sensibility they evoke. Implicit in all the glorious painterliness is a sublime hint of surrealism. From this perspective these paintings seem to represent images of a formless collective memory; something we can all tap into without putting a name to it. Seidl may be painting her dreams but they can be our dreams too, because the subject matter feels so common.

So, this work is romantically moody, tinged with surrealism and magnificently painted. But what do the paintings add up to? What of the content?

Begin with how they were created. Notice how each painting clearly holds its own as a unique personality even as they all hang together stylistically. There is absolutely nothing serialized about this work and so, true style is evident. Like many great modernist painters, Seidl begins each piece as a journey where the destination and getting there are of equal importance. Each painting documents its own experience of creation and you see in them varying measures of hard work, joy, struggle, spontaneity, order and even playfulness. All of this is available for the viewer to soak up, this richly woven tapestry of paint and imagery that extends beyond even the artist's capacity to explain them. In short, once completed, whatever th artist may say about them is but one voice, equally among any number of interpretations. A large part of Seidl's content is simply (or not so simply) to evoke the puzzling mystery and power of painting. This begins to explain the strong, art historical associations in work that is nevertheles quite contemporary.

Another aspect of the content is found in combining pure abstraction with hints of figurative references. What is impressive is how undemocratical this is applied throughout the work. You are aware of the figuration more in some paintings than in others. There is also another interesting aspect: the dual approach the artist takes in handling form. At first you are mostly aware of the activity: the quality of the paint and the motion it implies. But then, if you step back for a more generalized look, you notice what you perceive in the big picture. Its like discovering another painting when you see how the forms interact with each other.

In the end, this is work that is perhaps best enjoyed for its aesthetic value. Claire Seidl has magically woven an appreciation and knowledge of the history of painting with her unique, contemporary view. Like all great paintings, these pieces require a significant amount of quality time to appreciate. But the experience is more than rewarding and further distinguishes this artist for creating engaging work in a world dominated by instant gratification.