by Anita Katz
Sherie Franssen paints abstract canvases in which the human figure, even when broken up beyond recognition, makes a substantial and dramatic impression. Bits, pieces and pinks have the spotlight in “Gorgeous Nothings,” her fifth solo show at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in The City.
The Southern California-based artist’s style features thickly applied oil paint, dynamic brushwork, a spontaneous quality and an adventurous palette with hues ranging from stormy black to swimming-pool aqua to the spirit of cotton candy. Franssen’s influences, rooted in art history, include modern giants Philip Guston and Willem de Kooning (who, rare among the abstract expressionists, included human figures in his work).
Thirteen recent paintings by Franssen, some more than 5 feet tall or wide, make up the show, whose title reflects the artist’s use of fragmentation in the rendering of both figurative and atmospheric components.
Some of works contain identifiable images of the human body – a seated woman, a group of nudes. In others, biomorphic brushstrokes of pink, salmon and other skin tones inspire the viewer to consider the pieces, put them together, and picture the human form.
Franssen places this figurative material within environments that contain their own saturated mixture of swirls, curls and splashes. The overall effect is emotional as well as visual – evoking melancholy, harmony, turbulence or carnality.
In “Descent into Flesh” (2013), snakelike ribbons and patches of black spell dark forces threatening the skin-colored human elements. Drips of paint suggest the uncontainable aspects of nature and demonstrate the artist’s spontaneous energy.
“I’m All for You Body & Soul” (2014) is an active, pink and orange passion flower of a painting in which hints of a human form nearly merge with their surroundings. Elsewhere, Franssen presents her renditions of the bather painting, a figurative tradition associated with Paul Cezanne, Joan Brown and numerous others. In the pop-summery “Pink Wave” (2014), standing nudes dominate the foreground, with complementary blue and green behind them. A pink squiggle, upstaging all concerned, divides the canvas horizontally.
Other works include “Turn Blue” (2014), in which Franssen explores the emotional potential of the colder shades, and “Intimate With Madness” (2014), a small portrait of a troubled face whose contours and contortions bring to mind those of Francis Bacon, another of Franssen’s influences.