One hundred and sixty seven

Limb

2008 by Sarah Olson
Broadwick Open Studios, Brooklyn

Olson’s paintings are interesting. Her compositions follow a similar format; consistent in their subject matter, they constantly featuring these curious curling organic forms that climb, it seems, across the canvas. Although they may appear plant-like, certainly in this painting, these forms often appear as peculiar little bodies, shuffling and scrambling over each other to climb or cling to the stem like structures that grow across the compositions. Curved, their ‘bottoms’ are often more bulbous and obvious than in Limb, though perhaps this is the derivation of the title; here all we have is outstretching ‘arms’ and ‘legs’. Trained to paint classically, the quality of Olson’s painting contrasts to the playful quality of her compositions. The lustre and depth of the ‘skin’ of these forms is Titian-like, coming to highlights in a curve or swelling of flesh, yet it is seen through the unnatural luminosity of bright colour. The effect is an odd juxtaposition of style and colour, and indeed an overwhelming one as Olson’s paintings are huge. Almost floor to ceiling, they tower above the viewer making these strange forms appear all the more bizarre. The painterly flesh is then contrasted with confetti streams of colour that emerge from the background, flying in blue sky. They are playful, again multi-coloured, and thin, slippery and light in form and artistic articulation. They are streamer-like in a breeze, fluttering it seems in their inky translucence. Olson plays with painting like many currently painting contemporary artists, mixing painterly approach on canvas, making for an interesting play of style tied to subject.

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