Exhibition catalog with essay by the painter and curator Kim Power:
PEYRELEBADE: Patrick Neal Paintings
October 8 - October 31, 2019, Opening Reception: Tuesday, October 8, 5-7pm
Oresman Gallery, Brown Fine Arts Center, Smith College, 22 Elm Street, Northampton, MA 01063
Patrick Neal creates still life paintings that exist as reference points for musing on the creation of artwork itself. He selects objects based on their sensuality and tactile appeal, and accentuates the materiality of these objects in his paintings. His props are diaristic materials gleaned from travels to, from and within the studio; found objects; snapshots; tracings and sketches; and aspects of the books, words and notes he is reading and writing about. He utilizes artificial flowers, fabric, packaging supplies, glass and paper, and snippets of photos and written pages, and also recycles his own drawings and cast-off studio detritus. In addition to evoking visceral and sensual responses, the representation of these ephemera stimulate thoughts on a variety of other subjects, personal, art historical and topical.
Neal’s recent work is influenced by Symbolist art, combining visual and literary references. These paintings allude to narratives, abstraction, and/or states of mind, usually with an homage to a specific artist. Neal approaches his paintings in an impressionistic way, gathering thoughts and insights as they appear, circling around a subject in order to address it more directly, which in turn opens the door to new inquiries. By compounding multiple sources, references and layers, the paintings are constructed like poems where a distinct theme emerges amid flurries and tangents pertaining to different and seemingly unrelated material.
In an ongoing series of works on view at the Oresman Gallery, Neal has included direct portraits of Henri Fantin-Latour, the 19th century painter of flowers, among his still life configurations. A show at the Musée du Luxembourg in 2016, re-newed Neal’s interest in this artist who refused to join any groups, was a friend to avant-garde artists like Manet, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, but remained a traditionalist in his own style. Among his output, Fantin-Latour sometimes leaned toward the phantasmagoria of Symbolism, with its reveries of myth, magic, aura and mystery, and this jibes with Neal’s interest in biophilia, phenomenology and non-duality, subjects that offer latter-day attempts at transcendence. Neal’s quartet of paintings on Fantin-Latour are a mash-up of antiquated objects and contemporary materials of adornment and celebration, including balloons, nail polish and glitter, and are also a tribute to the work of Fantin-Latour himself.
The most recent paintings in the exhibition Peyrelebade reveal Neal’s fascination with the paintings and life of Odilon Re-don. The title Peyrelebade refers to the gloomy country estate where Redon was sent as a child, which would later influence his eerie and estranged black and white prints and drawings. It’s also a reference to Neal’s childhood in suburban upstate NY where he played in and explored the many surrounding cemeteries in the area. Redon’s eventual turn toward electric, illuminated colors and mythological creatures came late in his career after the birth of his second son, and signaled a new-found creative abandon. With a similar exuberance, Neal incorporates flashy props and textures, like sequins, mylar, and colored lights, invoking the flamboyance, hedonism and unorthodoxy of queer culture. Neal’s paintings serve as beacons of hope, imagination and empathy in the midst of politically fraught times.