One hundred and sixty three

Blue Ridge by Headlights

2010 by Tom McGrath
Sue Scott Gallery, NYC

McGrath has an extraordinary medium on canvas. His work has the sheen of photography with the thickness of paint; daubs of oil are thick and built up, yet diluted in places to the translucence of ink. It is a mixture of heavy and light, a casting of luminous shadows and dense silhouettes, which build the drama of these fantastic scenes. This stark contrast of darkness and light, the light often lurid in yellow or green, gives these paintings an anticipation or edginess. Some compositions are viewed through slats, blinds it seems — jungle life through a window — giving the viewer an inherent sense of hiding, of looking out from within, and only encourage this anticipatory feeling. Blue Ridge by Headlights is one of the many scenes that appears to be split in half, a definite divide between the earth and the atmosphere above it. The air is dense, thick with darkness in flat colour, with an indigo that glows like the night, and almost black trees wrestle and writhe through it. The headlamps and earth then erupt in front of this night sky; bright and textured in comparison, they appear in an almost completely different medium. Far from dense, their colour is all variation; deep and intense in orange and yellow, then pale as these mix with the white of the beams of light. Darkness invades the space, distorting form downwards in vertical drips, creeping into the yellow earth in sweeping brush strokes, arching with its movement, and oily in its inability to completely cover lit ground; this is the painterly effort of blurring darkness. McGrath’s paintings are original in their approach to medium and dramatic in their intense effect; well worth seeking out, these have to be seen in person to achieve a true sense of their intriguing execution.

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