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Kristen Cliburn
Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Kristen Cliburn, “Wide Soak” installation view at Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, 2019

Continuing through August 31, 2019

Viewing Kristen Cliburn’s elegant and deeply expressive paintings is a transcendent experience. She has mastered the language of color, creating carefully modulated abstractions that encourage contemplative viewing and individual interpretation. “Air Loom” and “Back to Blue” suggest the deep blues of the ocean’s depths, while “Ultraviolet Aperture” and “Of the Heart I” allude to the delicate rose tones of a sunset. These, however, would be oversimplifications of the artist’s intent. Perceiving them as reflecting infinite space or visual distillations of experiences with nature would be closer to the truth. Cliburn has spent years perfecting her technique of freeing color from its more customary role of depicting recognizable imagery or shapes in favor of creating subtle atmospheric paintings layered with meaning and association. Her meticulous canvases react to shifting light and points of view.

She avoids any evidence of gesture, her use of air brushes and air guns to apply thin layers of acrylic to the canvas resulting in no visible brushstrokes. The title of the show, “Wide Soak,” provides insight into the particular optical function she seeks to provoke. “Wide soak” denotes the use of rods rather than cones as the primary retinal sensors for human sight. This particular type of vision allows the eye to view an image more holistically than does the more focused sight through one’s cones. Cliburn describes this as “slow seeing,” which asks us to contemplate the subtle gradations of color as they transition from light to dark and back to light. Color, light and space have become the artist’s subject matter, and her technical control produces nuanced fields of color with the power to provoke psychological effects. Being surrounded by Cliburn’s paintings is a mesmerizing experience; linger with them and they will induce a meditative state with a distinctive visual resonance.

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