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MAUREEN CHATFIELD


P A T T E R N S .I N .T I M E

MAUREEN CHATFIELD J UNE 15 – S EPTE MBER 17, 2016

19 E AST 66 TH S T RE ET

N E W Y O RK , NY 10065

212.202.3270

W WW. R OSE N B ER G C O . C O M


INTRODUCTION

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osenberg & Co. had the great pleasure last summer of presenting Maureen Chatfield’s first solo exhibition in New York. On the wings of critical acclaim and her own vigor and determination, we have seen Chatfield rise quietly to the respected position she now commands. Maureen Chatfield’s “resplendent abstractions” (in the words of an ARTnews review) beckon us into a world of faultless colors and composition. The emotion always barely contained below the tempestuous textured surfaces, the vibrancy of the hues always beautifully balanced in subtlety, the rebellious brushstrokes always anchored in bold composition — one can get lost gazing at some of the little jewels. We owe a great debt to our colleague Elliott Brooks for her inspired and intelligent essay, capturing the very essence of Chatfield’s work. We are delighted to continue our valued relationship with Maureen Chatfield with this exhibition of her recent works, “Patterns In Time.”

M AR I AN NE R O S E N B E RG


M A U R E E N C H AT F I E L D : PAT T E R N S I N T I M E

“Some paintings may start out as a visual impression, others as a moment or experience, and some as a rhythm or pattern in time.” Maureen Chatfield

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n an age when abstraction seems overrun with the haphazardly bland and repetitive works that have inspired the epithets “zombie formalism” and “provisional painting,” Maureen Chatfield’s paintings are anything but cookie-cutter. Her body of work encompasses expansive arrangements of geometric forms, elegantly calibrated compositions of crisscrossing lines and arcs, expressive and overlapping gestural paintings, and semi-abstracted landscapes. While some of her paintings instill the viewer with a calm and contemplative inward turn, others are joyous and explosive, exuding a contagious energy. Unlike so much contemporary painting that seems not to have progressed beyond Clement Greenberg’s reductionist guidelines for “medium specificity,”1 Chatfield’s oeuvre harks back to the spiritual heart of early abstraction and its engagement with the ethos of creation. Her approach echoes the aims of the pre-Greenbergian abstract painters, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Nicolas de Staël, who sought purity in their art not through formal aesthetics but instead through a reflexive examination of their selfhood and emotional state.

Medium specificity is an aesthetic consideration popularized by the art critic Clement Greenberg that attests that artists should identify and work with what is unique to their particular medium. In the case of painting, Greenberg writes that artists should not try to disguise the two-dimensionality of the picture plane.

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What’s the Point?, 2016 Oil on canvas 8 x 10 in.

On Point, 2016 Mixed media on canvas 30 x 40 in.

Like those progenitors of abstraction, Chatfield discovers her paintings through a simultaneous act of building and burying. She layers paint upon paint, scumbling2 the edges of her forms until the finished work reveals itself to her. She says that she “must paint what is calling to come out,” and it is this impetus to unearth the vast reserves of creative energy buried deep inside herself, along with her willingness to paint intuitively until the work is conjured forth, that most closely links her to the founders of the genre. Unsurprisingly, her kinship with early abstraction’s process also reveals itself in the formal properties of her paintings. For example, stacks of rectilinear shapes comprise the intimate What’s the Point?, recalling the compositional minimalism of Nicolas de Stäel’s paintings. However, this semblance of simplicity is betrayed by the stratifications of paint exposed on the left side of the work, revealing the layering of color upon color integral to Chatfield’s process. Conversely, her dramatic On Point (even the title complements What’s the Point?,

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Scumbling is a painting technique in which a thin layer of opaque paint is applied in order to soften the color below.


as if the two were foils for each other) obliterates nearly all evidence of underpainting through thick, gestural washes of black paint. These somber traces recall the overwhelming presence of black paint in Robert Motherwell’s starkly monumental Elegies to the Spanish Republic series. However, this solemnity is undercut by a cheeky peek of blue emerging from the darkness, as if in celebration of Kazimir Malevich’s radical compositions of the most elemental shapes and colors. Chatfield’s painterly process results in emotionally-charged works that not only resonate aesthetically, but furthermore appeal to the viewer’s soul. As Chatfield herself has said, “A successful abstract painting should bend the conventional intellectual process. It should engage participation on an emotional level, first to be felt, then analyzed or not... When I’m asked what a painting means I usually respond that meaning is subjective and irrelevant. More importantly, how does it make you feel?” This comment echoes an exchange between Mark Rothko and the writer Selden Rodman, with Rothko reprimanding Rodman by saying: “the fact that lots of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions [tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on]…The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!”3 For both Chatfield and Rothko, a work of art’s significance lies in the emotional experience it instills in the viewer. While for Rothko this emotional repertoire includes tragedy and despair, Chatfield aims to create works that are playful, uplifting, or calming. As she says, “I feel that everyone knows what anger, vulgarity, and sorrow look and feel like. I have no need in my world to create more of it.”

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Mark Rothko, quoted in Selden Rodman, Conversations with Artists (New York: Devin-Adair, 1957): 93-94.


Jump Start, 2012 Acrylic on canvas 60 x 48 in.

Chatfield had a tumultuous childhood and, starting at a young age, she sought out periods of tranquility through music and art. She drew, and later painted, while listening to the swinging, tumbling ebb and flow of Thelonious Monk on piano. Even now, her artistic practice is predicated on her love of music. She is particularly affected by rhythm, which she elegantly describes as “patterns in time.” As she says, “unlike paintings, which are compositions in space, a musical work is a composition in time. Rhythm is music’s pattern specific to that time. Whatever other elements a given piece of music has (pitch or timbre), rhythm is the one essential element of all music. So I would have to say that I paint rhythm or specific patterns in time.” And indeed, there is something inherently jazz-like about Chatfield’s paintings. Just as Monk would strike a key a quarter beat too late, or omit a note in a chord, Chatfield subtly breaks visual compositional rules. For example, in Jump Start, lines


Summer Squall, 2016 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in.

First Thaw, 2013 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 60 in.

and colors cluster and jumble at the edges, broken up by a large swath of monochromatic blank space in the middle of the painting. The viewer’s eyes are forced away from the center, where they would naturally fall, and are instead compelled to trace the perimeters of the picture plane. And in Summer Squall, a muted work that hovers somewhere between an abstract composition and a landscape, a section of the horizon appears as if erased, undermining the viewer's expectation of an uninterrupted line partitioning the painting. Like a gaping measure in the midst of a Monk song, this enigmatic absence complicates the compositional logic of Summer Squall. But it would be reductionist to posit that Chatfield’s art imitates music; instead, the underlying currents of beats resurface in her paintings through the rhythmic interplay of shapes and colors. Through her paintings, Chatfield lays bare music’s skeleton and translates it into pure color, line, and form.


Pickle Road Farm, 2016 Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in.

Updraft, 2016 Oil on canvas 8 x 10 in.

Beach Lane, 2016 Oil on board 5 x 7 in.

But perhaps most revealing of Chatfield’s oeuvre is her idea of painting “patterns in time.” She has said of the inspiration behind her work, “Some paintings may start out as a visual impression, others as a moment or experience, and some as a rhythm or pattern in time.” In this last instance, inspiration and process become one. The temporality of memory is reflected in the temporality of process, in the gestural movements of Chatfield’s hand across the canvas. In this way, the tidal waves of time — once remembered, and once experienced — are flattened into a static image. Like a seismometer capturing the ceaseless movements of the earth, Chatfield’s paintings reveal the fluctuations of time manifested through transient emotional states and the joyous, quotidian minutiae of life. E LLI OTT B RO O KS ROSENBERG & CO.


Delaware, 2015 Acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 in.


Blue Ridge, 2013 Oil on canvas 20 x 24 in.


La Dee Da, 2016 Oil on board 12 x 12 in.


The Boat House, 2015 Oil on canvas 8 x 10 in.


On The Danube, 2015 Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in.


Sail Away, 2015 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in.


Wintergreen, 2015 Oil on canvas 14 x 18 in.


Summer’s End, 2015 Acrylic on canvas 48 x 60 in.


Light Through the Window, 2015 Acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 in.


On Point, 2016 Mixed media on canvas 30 x 40 in.


Sugar Mill, 2016 Oil on canvas 18 x 24 in.


Foyer, 2016 Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in.


Alex, 2016 Oil on canvas 24 x 30 in.


Beach Lane, 2016 Oil on board 5 x 7 in.


Big Red, 2016 Oil on board 5 x 7 in.


Conclusion, 2016 Mixed media on canvas 36 x 48 in.


Mies, 2016 Mixed media on canvas 48 x 38 in.


CafĂŠ Noir, 2015 Oil on panel 6.5 x 9 in.


Journey, 2016 Oil on canvas 36 x 36 in.


Summer Squall, 2016 Oil on canvas 12 x 12 in.


First Thaw, 2013 Acrylic on canvas 30 x 60 in.


Overpass, 2016 Mixed media on canvas 30 x 60 in.


Pickle Road Farm, 2016 Oil on canvas 9 x 12 in.


Red Barn, 2016 Oil on canvas 30 x 40 in.


Updraft, 2016 Oil on canvas 8 x 10 in.


Still Hollow Farm, 2016 Oil on canvas 12 x 16 in.


What’s the Point?, 2016 Oil on canvas 8 x 10 in.


Zompino, 2016 Oil on canvas 18 x 36 in.


Desert Rose, 2016 Oil on board 8 x 10 in.


Mountainville, 2016 Oil on canvas 8 x 10 in.


In C Minor, 2016 Mixed media on canvas 36 x 60 in


M A U R E E N C H AT F I E L D B.

aureen Chatfield is a contemporary artist whose body of work is a unique blend of New York Abstract Expressionism and Bay Area Figurative painting. Her works are never premeditated; instead, she allows the color harmonies, receding and overlapping lines, and delicate balance of amorphous shapes to emerge while she paints. She has written that, “My paintings are intuitive responses to the myriad forces that shape my life — emotions that translate into color, visual memories of forms and color relationships found in the landscape, and personal stories from my past... The work process is one of constant experiment and change — building layers of color, form, and image on the canvas, revealing the underlying pentimento.” Chatfield has studied at numerous institutions including the Art Students League, New York; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; and Hunter College, New York. She teaches painting at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey and lives and works in rural New Jersey. Maureen Chatfield is represented by Rosenberg & Co.

Rosenberg & Co. ©2016

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C ARM EL , N EW Y ORK


Maureen Chatfield: Patterns in Time  
Maureen Chatfield: Patterns in Time  
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