Ellen Phelan "Landscapes and Still Lifes: A Selection"

Tanja Grunert Gallery

poster for Ellen Phelan "Landscapes and Still Lifes: A Selection"

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Gasser Grunert presents the work of Ellen Phelan. Ellen Phelan’s recent landscapes and still-life paintings completed between 1997 and 2010 flicker in and out of focus between realism’s sharp relief and abstraction’s gestural mark, between observations made from life and references to the photographic image.

Her earliest landscapes were plein aire black gouache drawings on stretched watercolor paper, begun in 1977, when she and her family first began summering in the Adirondacks. Since then, Phelan has expanded her medium to oil on canvas to capture a remarkable range of darkness and soft light, emotional high notes and whispers that together, evoke the experience of remembering. Many of the images which enter our vision and embed into the mind eventually give way to indistinct impressions and finally dissipate altogether as they are overwhelmed by a cascade of more recent and vivid images. Phelan’s paintings are located in these slippages of memory – in the cracks between what the eyes are able to process and what the mind fills in. Efforts to verbally recall the details are immediately lost because we first encounter the paintings as sense impressions that are vague yet lasting.

In Woods (Westport), the earliest of the paintings on display, the suggestion of an entire forest is expressed through minimal brushwork, revealing her lineage in abstraction. As Phelan moves between mediums, she explores the formal and psychological implications attainable with each. The watercolor, gouache and pastel on paper Peonies and Quail on Mantel obscures the subject then pulls it back into clarity. For the oil on linen version, she allows the forms to be fully realized as representations of a domestic still life.

Her subject matter has touched upon the psychological drama embodied by dolls, the pastoral landscape, still life scenes and family drama played out through photography, while the forms that her work has taken have shifted from three dimensional sculpture to painting, works on paper and photographic arrangements. Throughout her career, Phelan has moved deftly between the polarities of abstraction and realism, always resisting the prevailing notions of what is acceptable subject matter in the contemporary discourse to follow a path that has been distinctly her own.



from February 17, 2011 to March 19, 2011

Opening Reception on 2011-02-17 from 18:00 to 20:00


Ellen Phelan

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