Continuing through June 30, 2019
In her exhibition “This Place This Vessel” Shawn Demarest transmutes quotidian subject matter — cars — into the stuff of visual ecstasy. The painter returns time and again to images of automobiles driving down Portland streets, most often in the rain, which permits seductive reflections to be added to her compositions. In “Flotilla” these reflections stretch out luxuriantly into long planks of turquoise and salmon. Demarest has an active Instagram presence, but seeing her work on a screen is no substitute for the real thing; there is a creaminess to her paint application and a glistening quality that are not evident in reproduction.
Her technique is essentially neo-Impressionist: loose and reductive in works such as “Galleon,” with details like billboards, trees, and buildings treated cursorily. By fading them into the background, the foreground yields to flaring headlights and streaks of near-psychedelic color. “Interstellar” incorporates stars and stripes into the tableau, a reference to the changing implications of patriotism in the age of Trump. Other works feature plants and vines climbing incongruously up the picture plane. The streetscape in “Lucky Charms” has no water or reflections, which serves to accentuate how luscious these effects are in the majority of her works. Like another Portland-based painter, Renée Zangara, who renders gardens and floral still lifes with a John Singer Sargent-like romanticism, Demarest imbues everyday scenes with an intrinsic nobility, allowing us to see them in a new light.