When I came across this tree growing under the arch, I was dazzled by the spacial relationships and color contrast and ideas of deep time in the long life of the tree growing below the time-carved archway.
When addressing the landscape it is important to leave representation to the photograph, and let the painting address the concerns of fine art. Inherent in my original photograph was a degree of abstraction favoring spacial relationships and contrasting organic mass, hazy winter light favoring a palette of mid-tones; this was a good jumping off point. The intent of the painting is to move beyond visual recognition of form, and enter the sense of presence and living dynamic of direct experience that many skim over even when directly experiencing- therefore, heightening the pathways laying dormant in everyday life. That is the living quality of painting, and the sense in Van Gogh’s work that is often referred to as “passion”. There is a reason 19th Century ideals of The Sublime are expressed in landscape, as with JMW Turner’s seascapes, they point toward deep time and erase the primacy of the individual, planting the viewer squarely outside their frame of reference and into the question of identity and mortality and the false mental and physical worlds of human making. Art becomes a gateway to a sense of hidden living experience, pulling back a veil that is unrealized until seen beyond. This power of art is why the fine arts were traditionally aligned with religion, then realigned to a secular experience of the divine in Nature (The Sublime) durning the Romanic Era, and finally to the subconscious in the New York Style or Abstract Expressionism wherein Jackson Pollock declared “I am Nature!”.
The bridge is the size of a skyscraper, spanning high above. The bridge shares the palette of the surrounding landscape elements, yet each of the three main aspects of the landscape have their own tonal emphasis. This dynamic push and pull of color within the looming landscape is augmented with the patterning brought to each element. To the left is the south face of a rounded cliff heated with intense yellows that roil in curvilinear tension against the expanse of the bridge. The bridge offsets against the right cliff wall through complementary contrast of red (bridge) v green (wall) in the base tones, and the strong striping that curves and dives along the shear wall. This shadowed striping points up and inward, mirroring the opposing sunlit angled form, driving the linear focus beyond the span of the bridge into the clear resting breath of the sky. An aspect of the wall at the top right has sheared away, and the tones in this area shift from green to red, aligning with the bridge, stabilizing the upward thrust at the painting’s base and helping the eye hold the expanse of the floating bridge aloft at the painting’s top. Both bordering landscape elements bring emphasis to the bridge, which is chiseled with high intensity shapes that swirl and align, all in warm tones of hot orange, toned sandy pink, and saturated violet shadow. There are also two pulses of pure white snow that move the eye from the near ground to the farthest reach of background, both are positioned toward the base of the bridge to break the bridge free at its base from the pinching condensation of forms. And then there is the tree.
The tree forms its own abstract ideation of the bridge, with a cold bluish arm individually arising from below the bridge, pushing deep into the left of the picture plane for a high temperature contrast to the yellow wall. As the bridge is a geological aspect of the right wall, two branches (one physically connected to the main tree and one arising in harmony with the the far blue branch) push up through the darkest shadow of the wall connecting into the undercut of warm bounced light on the cliffs underside. The interplay of these three elements are crucial to the central body of the tree, allowing it to move across the body of the bridge aligning in tone with the sky, connecting the twin diving arrows of sky to the ground, then lifting the sky back to float below the bridge. A complex haze of darkly intense color screens this area of the tree’s dominion, a netting of branches to further define a boundary of sky to lower the viewer’s frame of reference once again and set their sense of craning their necks upward and feeling that slight vertigo as the ground falls away under your feet, though they remain planted firmly.