Like a grand opera cycle, Priscilla Derven‘s current and previous shows at John Davis Gallery create a world of event, drama, tragedy, conflict, beauty.
The paintings in her new exhibit, “DISLAND: Paintings 2013-2015” are gorgeous yet often disquieting abstractions, suggesting landscapes catastrophically disturbed and populations obliterated by the violence of water.
Derven’s bathers (figures rendered using little more than color and light), who enjoyed the seaside and the ocean in her earlier series, “A Day at the Beach: New Paintings 2006-2007” and “Paintings” (2008), have disappeared; so too the gangsters and warriors of “SOA e SONA” (2010). Human and environmental violence (likely also human-created) have brought the apocalypse.
Derven discussing “DISLAND” says, “The people are all gone now except where they wash ashore like branches or other spindly, broken detritus…I fly overhead in my imaginary plane soaring in, too close to the jagged cliffs, as I come in for the views.”
And what spectacular views they are. Working with oil on canvas or linen, Derven uses “no visual reference except what I can see in the paint I apply to canvas.” Her palette and forms, ranging from ominous (toxic plumes?) to pastoral (blooming fields?), reveal the next stage in the earth’s life, a “world without us,” and perhaps, in one of the last paintings in the exhibit (if you start upstairs, and then downstairs, walk counterclockwise), “DISLAND 10,” a return to a peaceful (albeit, empty) beach.
“DISLAND: Paintings 2013-2015” at John Davis Gallery, 3621/2 Warren Street, Hudson, NY, continues through May 24.