essay, Kathrine Page, curator
David Berry: New Horizons
For many artists of the landscape genre nature is both subject and object; for David Berry, tranquility is his feature presentation. Berry’s serenely sophisticated landscapes have mesmerized collectors for years with his bucolic, atmospheric explorations of color tones. His compositional arrangements reveal an affinity with Jacob Van Ruisdael’s seventeenth century landscapes: low horizon lines--the point of extreme dialectic—that yield freedom to an expansive space and time in the upper realms of the painting. Vast skies create a longing and sense of wonder, like a south westerner seeing a New England autumn for the first time. Then tranquility sets in and the eyes in an unending sweep devour the manifold surface plane.
Unlike Van Ruisdael’s naturalistic rendering of the landscape, Berry explores representationalism that meshes into abstraction through confidently applied expressive brushwork. And like Van Ruisdael, Berry’s landscapes are idealistic places where light conveys a sense of eternity and his color sensibility reveals a visceral response to metaphysical vistas producing tranquil meadows, marshes, ponds, and tree-laden hills.
Berry imbues his simple bipartite compositions with a quiet personality. The silence of each work speaks volumes on the sensual world of the landscape. The subject and the object then becomes the source of contemplation. In doing so each layer of brushwork unlocks the secret of the landscape—memory, association, quiet revelry.
Berry’s newest landscapes employ concepts that transform the landscape as subject. Berry perceives life and growth, and like his previous work, conveys a sense of grandeur and serenity. Berry presents even bolder color combinations, fearless and vibrant brushwork, flattened space, and introduces sharply defined geometric shapes in what he calls a direct “fusing…[of]…abstract and representational invented landscapes.” Eschewing any attempt to ascribe actual places Berry presents a contemporary vision of the restorative power of the bucolic landscape--always changing, yet constantly regenerating.
Raz a ma taz is one of Berry’s newest paintings that croon a “bold and sassy” statement. Berry punctuates the top portion with two horizontal stripes, the large one a fire engine red, and the smaller stripe ultramarine blue. The bands of color give way to the middle section where Berry scraped and scratched the surface creating layers and layers of texture, and, as a result, stunning visual texture. In a visceral treatment of pigment Berry then dissected the area with a row of trees by applying layers of vertical and crosshatched lines with oil stick. Berry created the square shapes that line the lower edge of the painting by smearing thin layers of pigment over the painted substrate, resulting in transparent screens that both conceal and reveal layers of breathless activity by this master painter. The painting’s brashness and vigor underscore a cohesive sensibility resolving the limitations of a square format, while at the same time offers the viewer a tranquil setting for contemplation.
In the stillness and quiet of his subjects Berry continues to capture the “indescribable essence” of the land caught in a moment of unending time. His work engenders thought and analysis supplying the contemporary art world with grit, beauty, and tranquility.