Brenda Cirioni

17 April – 25 June 2010

Silver Lining, acrylic on paper
Among the Pines, mixed media on paper

Brenda Cirioni’s paintings are characterized by her attention to surface and a sense of touch. Her work has undergone a quiet revolution in recent years, beginning with the Prayer Painting series, in which she combines text from inspirational quotes with paintings that surround, support, and illuminate the concepts she holds dear. The sense of touch in these pieces is palpable, even without the text they are compelling. In later works, the quotes and the concepts they embody are subsumed within the paintings, and the work takes on a new richness and subtlety.

Throughout the Island series she is searching for a solution to the problem of stiffening the paper enough to hold her irregular edges without making it so stiff that she can no longer rip and tear the edges to suit the individual pieces. The presence of text remains, but the words are more diaristic, and emerge in and out of focus. One can see the island as metaphor for the artist, for her spiritual and artistic growth, which in this case and in this artist, cannot be separated. In the earlier Island Paintings ("Silver Lining," "Fill My Heart"), the island dissolves in an atmospheric haze of color, dripping paint and subliminal sgraffito text, as if the artist is searching for her way. In the later Island paintings, like "Isle of Mercy" and "Tagore’s Faith," she settles into a technique in which a layer of fiberglass screen is sandwiched between two layers of watercolor paper, which frees her more and more to both play with the edges of her paintings, and to introduce collage elements into the work.

"Déjà vu" is a masterful symphony of color, a perfectly balanced work ranging from glimmering gold, pale yellow over blue, purples and magentas applied with brushes, rags, and fingers. The island is copper and umber in a roiling sea of blue and grey. In an epiphany of riotous greens and earthy reds and dripping paint, Cirioni finds the still point, the calm before or perhaps within the storm, and delineates that point perfectly.

In "Tagore’s Faith," there is a dark night of the soul. Referring to the Sufi poet, Rabindranath Tagore, Cirioni writes "Originally the painting had a quote of his in it, the painting was very dark with birds, the quote being: 'Faith is the songbird singing when the dawn is still dark.' The painting is so dark you can no longer see the island, sea and sky merge in the crepuscule depths of indigo, ultramarine, and crimson, splashes of paler oranges and greens deepen the obscurity with the island a blackness at the center. So the prayer is there, obliterated by the darkness as night overtakes the Island, as darkness overwhelms the soul and only a tiny flame of hope remains, the songbird singing when the dawn is still dark."

Then spring appears. In the newest works such as "Through These Eyes" and "How Do You Think Spring Arrives?," Cirioni returns to the forest, a familiar childhood friend. The chartreuse greens of spring glow and thrive and the trees, torn from paper, fashioned from screen, grow tangled in the fragile undergrowth. From the dark, rich undergrowth emerges a new direction and a heightened sense of light and focus. From overt messages, through island haze and experiments with technique, Cirioni has forged new paths for herself as her work matures, evolves and glows with an internal light and a compelling sense of quiet grace and fortitude.

All are welcome to a reception with the artist on: Tuesday, May 18, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Brenda will give a talk at 7:15 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

Deborah Santoro

Yes We Can Speech, acrylic on paper
Déjà Vu, acrylic on paper