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Frances Hynes supports the often panoramic stretch of her intricate, painterly abstractions with underlying grids, sections of which emerge within and at the margins of the canvases. The device draws the eye into and across each painting ís field, and echoes features in the works, such as the many-paned windows of a barn or the abstracted suggestion of a deep lake or looming cliff. Taken together, the paintings in her exhibition, "North Light," conveyed the verdant qualities and light of coastal landscapes and the experience of the countryside. Dated 2006 to 2008, these engaging and intense works seem free of the conventions of perspective and kin to Chinese landscape, with its invitation to linger.

In such paintings as the 34-by-48-inch Memory Traces: Place by the River (2008), Hynes employs only a few lines to remark the simplicity of a barn flanked by a darkened cottage. The scene is shown at nightfall, indicated by layered expanses of deep rich blue and turquoise. Several paintings achieve an explicitly marine ambience as Hynes inflects the canvas with the regular cresting of choppy waves, outlines of boats and umber indications of towering palisades.

Awash with serenity reminiscent of the southern light of Matisse or Cezanne, the 44-by-72-inch Summer Place: To the Islands introduces small boats to an otherwise tapestry-like abstraction, perhaps a catboat and a scarcely limned skiff with the slightest implication of an oarsman at the stern balancing passengers in the bow. In a pleasing alteration of scale, the figures are dwarfed by the dominance of the spacious coastal landscape, which is punctuated by appearances of the grid underneath, Hynes's skillful working of the brush is on a par with her mastery of color, and both are placed in service to the medium of memory.

Edward Leffingwell

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APRIL 2009

Frances Hynes: North Light: Recent Paintings
February 27 - March 31, 2009
at June Kelly Gallery
by Hearne Pardee

Water has been a significant motif in modern art. Frances Hynes' mysterious and evocative recent paintings at June Kelly provide a phenomenology of its common manifestations — river, ocean, lake – and recall some prominent predecessors. Often associated with escape from the stress of everyday life, water inspires contemplation. It can be sensual, as in the broken reflections of Monet, or appeal to spiritual transcendence, as in the seascapes of Mondrian. Hynes' paintings, with their seductive surfaces and underlying grids, allude to both. They also have much in common with the more intimate compositions of Paul Klee, which weave image fragments into their material structure. Hynes, in fact, compares her process to weaving, and similarities abound in paintings such as Summer Place: To the Islands (2008), where sketchy boats and distant houses emerge, as though through fog, from a texture of marks that create a luminous surface. Thereís weaving not just in the layering of strands of paint but in the larger alternation of outlined rectangular forms with blurred rectangles of pigment, and even in the overall sense of reverie associated with the repetitive process of building the surface.

While Hynes alludes to Maine (and her works also recall the sea paintings of Maine artist William Kienbusch), along with Long Island and Delaware County, her works, composed from memory in the studio, are synthetic images, documenting not the particulars of place so much as the ways these particulars are turned and developed in our minds. There ís casual openness to Hynes' abbreviated depiction; her snippets of detail might be the schematic notations we carry in memories, just specific enough to restore a remembered state of well-being. Washes and markings of muted pinks and blue-greens generate light, so that these floating traces seem projected on screens.

But these pleasurable effects and allusions to leisure activities bear an undercurrent of introspective solitude. Hynes' predominantly cool, understated colors lend an undertone of isolation, even melancholy, to these northern landscapes, which often focus on islands and cliffs. By relaxing conventional standards of realistic description, Hynes makes her images immediately accessible to the mind and its fluctuations of mood, and enables herself to explore the modernist vision common to the painters that inspire her (to whom one should add the early Philip Guston). In Ocean III (2006) small strokes of pigment lend substance and specificity to a vast expanse of water, much as Mondrian ís more impersonal marks evoke the sea ís surface in Pier and Ocean (1915). Like his, Hynes' abstraction is rooted in the tangible space of lived experience. Island Place (2008) is more dramatic: one of the strongest paintings in the show, it launches a wedge of architecture into a dense, blossoming field of blue and pink reflections. The wall of the foreground building, merging with the surface of the water, flattens its expanse and takes us both up above, and deeper into, its painterly depths.

In previous exhibitions, Hynes has used poems by Mark Strand and Seamus Heaney to introduce her work. Her search for a stripped-down language of representation - hardly leisurely in its ambition - stakes out a domain of meaning common to poetry and painting, where details of everyday life can assume new configurations in the mind. There reverie, engaged in the texture of sounds or pigments, can succumb to the rhythms of inner impulse, and images can emerge, energized by memories and desires.

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