March 12, 2020
written by Elizabeth Spadea
for Ellenbogen Gallery, Manchester, VT
Challenging the narratives of many abstract painters, Vermont-based artist Dublin Durller-Wilson exposes the horizon line directly on her canvases, leaving the audience with not much else. Looking at the work of her contemporaries, one of the first critical points to mention is the lack of a horizon line. By abandoning any reference to our known physical space, artists attempt to transport their viewers into a completely different dimension with unrecognizable ideas of space. Therefore, leaving the works to be defined by color choice and the compositional arrangement of gestural marks. For Durller-Wilson, the work is defined by her direct application of a horizontal line running through the canvas. This lateral mark directs the flow of energy within the entire piece.
While the world around us is in chaos, Durller-Wilson’s work demands a moment of calm. Peaceful and serene, she allows her viewers to enter into the space she has painted for herself as a moment to step out of the storm. Actively avoiding an engagement with politically or socially driven content, Durller-Wilson opens up her emotional depths to come alive on the canvas. Away from the noise of social media and the screens which fill our homes, Durller-Wilson has created an artistic safe space, for those who are in need of comfort.
For many of the works in her Horizon Series, Durller-Wilson selects a color or a color palette to become the subject. As most color congregates towards the center of balance in the works, which is not always the center of the canvas itself, we are asked to immerse ourselves in the immediate stillness which surrounds the line. Grounded by this linear stroke, the drips of paint ooze from the line in an often-upwards direction, challenging everything we understand about space and gravity.
By playing with the exact latitude of the line on the canvas, Durller-Wilson comments on the variation we experience during everyday life. Moods rise and fall, opportunities come and go, this is all reflected within our own horizon lines, our own center of balance. As Durller-Wilson explains, we are always thrown into the deep end of something or thrown out into the wind in any given circumstance throughout our days, weeks and years. Often seeking something to hold on to, we look for the bottom, or the surface, we long for the knowledge of what surrounds us, and we are eager to find safety.
Despite the simplicity of her canvases, complexity surrounds the minimalist lines of Dublin Durller-Wilson. Working with a spare structure, she has become a champion of streamlining emotion. A snapshot, a small piece of the untouched world of Durller-Wilson is revealed to us. We must assume more exists beyond what we can see; above, below, in-front-of, etc. Once we begin to consider her works as part of three-dimensional space, the seemingly simple horizontal lines become increasingly more powerful. Conversations then turn to the question: how does what we cannot see affect what we can see? Relative space, extending beyond the edge of the physical confines come into play, adding depth, breadth and also mystery.
Saturated and linear, it would be hard not to compare Durller-Wilson’s work to that of mid-century abstract artist Mark Rothko. Minimalistic marks and a strong use of color define his work. “Primal, pre-verbal communication” is explored within his art, as described by his son, published in a series of essays around his late-father’s work. This categorization of works also trespasses onto those of Durller-Wilson. Using non-verbal cues through paint strokes, a conversation with the audience occurs. Simplified yet conclusive Durller-Wilson engages with her audience.
Despite her uniquely modern lines, I would consider Dublin Durller-Wilson an abstract landscape artist. She constructs alternative landscape scenarios within her canvases for us to imagine. She is vague yet informative and sets the tone of each painting through her hues of bold colors. She introduces her viewers into her desolate world of obscure minimalism and gives no more than a few clues for us to piece together the remainder of the canvas.