And now for something … completely different – though nothing ever is. As we shall see…

Ellie and I walked down the hill yesterday, late afternoon, to enjoy a glass of wine with our neighbor, the artist Marcia Hafif. A painter in the tradition of minimalist, monochromatic work, she’s just completing a new series of bichromatic paintings and has them hanging in her living room. I didn’t count them, but I guess there are perhaps a dozen of them, each square divided vertically into two non-equal parts whose graduated width evokes the rhythmic progression of a spare, musical composition as the eye follows the series around the room. The paintings have a silvery, silken glow to them, with barely perceptible modulations on two subdued colors, both difficult to name; one is a kind of subtly mauvish grey, the other a reduced celadon green. They would have the fluffy seductiveness of cotton candy, but for the carefully-structured formal context that lends them a quiet sobriety and depth. In keeping with the history of Hafif’s work, their Zen-like reductiveness induces a state of meditative attention and serenity, but there’s a gentle quality in the touch that keeps them from being severe. Up close, the artist’s hand is everywhere evident in the patient brushwork and this, I think, is where the viewer is invited into the work. This is chink in the formalist armor where we come in contact with the human presence and the human values that give the work its depth of content.

Not an adequate description, perhaps, because such work defies attempts to translate it into language. I was reminded once again of the seeming contradiction in my aesthetic passions: while I’m attracted to the work of artists who persist in looking to the human form and to the landscape that surrounds us, I also get that frisson of recognition, of acknowledgement–that YES!–with reductive, even monochromatic work like Marcia’s. It’s the response that tells me that what I’m looking at has something vital to tell me about my own humanity. (…)

Peter Clothier, The Buddha Diaries, Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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