Robert Reynolds wanted to know if the the horizon line brings the sky together with the land or separates them forever. He would have been in the throes of that aesthetic conundrum even if the Saranac weren’t flowing in his gallery.
Art and brew came mellifluously together Friday night as Reynolds Fine Art on Orange Street opened an expansive new show of Dutch-inspired landscapes called “Horizons.” The opening also served as one of the sites of the Town Green’s beer crawl through the watering holes of the Ninth Square, Brew on 9.
Reynolds, who owns the 2-year-old gallery, is showing 17 medium to large-scale oils on linen or on panel of his own through June 5.
Reynolds’ previous work was a show called “Aerials,” in which he painted views of Manhattan and other locales from remembered flights. In an aerial view, there is no horizon line. That results in a lack of stability that gives a dizzying sense, he said.
He wanted to explore why and how the horizon line stabilizes the viewer’s eye.
And yet to explore stability he chose a kind of unstable, dizzying method of approach that he likened almost to a self-hypnosis.
“I woke up in the morning, came to the studio, and said ‘[Today] where do I want to go [in memory]?’”
He took a piece of charcoal and a straight edge and drew the horizon line, then painted sky above and land below.
The question was how to both evoke the the landscapes of the Dutch masters like van Ruisdael and Hobbema, and create something of his own.
Part of the answer was to remove the cows and all traces of humans and their quaint habitations that characterized landscapes from the Dutch Golden Age.
The distinction was in the approach Reynolds takes: to maintain the kind of hypnotic state in which memory dictated where the brush goes, and not an attempt the realism that characterized the originators of the genre.
And if there were a conflict between an evoked memory of a Dutch town or the view of “Giethoorn,” outside Utrecht where he was on the day he left Holland in 1994, which would prevail? Brush or memory.”
“I want the brush telling me what to do,” Reynolds said.
He said he particularly liked how “Giethoorn II” came out because it’s fogged and horizon line plays hide and seek with the viewer’s eye.
“The horizon line is the simplest [thing] and yet the most complex and infuriating,” he said.
As he toured a reporter down the line of his paintings, Reynolds said he also particularly liked his “Groningen,” which in his view came closest to capturing the traditional Dutch approach.
But even here, realism took a back seat to recollection. The work was about “a memory of being there. It’s beyond. I try to translate with paint the memory of a feeling in visual terms,” he said.
Then we went over and had a beer.
Was Reynolds disappointed that the Brew on 9 organizers had given him Saranac to pour, and not a Dutch beer?
Reynolds thought a moment and replied, “The Dutch did settle upstate New York.”
The next show at Reynolds will be landscapes and seascapes, but of a more abstract variety, by Branford-based artist Margot Nimiroski