Sundaram Tagore Madison Ave. presents new and recent work by American artist Joan Vennum, best known for her lush, atmospheric paintings depicting the illusion of limitless space, as it appears both in her imagination and the natural world.
For this show, the New York-based artist is presenting a series of oil-on-canvas paintings that are at once abstract and figurative, comprising luminous gradated color fields shaped by layers of meditative, rhythmic brushstrokes. With these new works, Vennum captures nature’s mutable atmospheric conditions, while refining her subject matter to its simplest form.
Much of Vennum’s work is inspired by her travels and her observations of daily life, such as the sun setting on the river Ganges in India or the impact of weather on Sicily’s coastal landscape, the elements on the horizon and the spectacle of the sea. The dynamism of these elements and the vastness of space are made present in Vennum’s images through a combination of basic forms and intense surface detail.
Vennum's brushwork varies from open and soft, as with Four Through Time, where sky blue seamlessly shifts into bright coral, to stronger, more delineated strokes, as in the Wandering series, which vibrate with barely contained energy.
Vennum’s rich palette spans nature’s full color spectrum, from vibrant vermillion and saffron yellow, to deep sea blues and earthy burgundies. Many of the works have at least one horizon line or possibly a hidden circle, though they don’t always reveal themselves at first glance. Vennum’s handling of paint has shifted toward a looser application over time and she has amplified the contrast between dark and light.
Aside from careful measurements to determine the ratios of her color fields, her work is built from influences of the weather, recent visual experience and discovery within the painting itself. The resulting canvasses are both lively and ethereal. “I work like an Abstract Expressionist. It’s a discovery, step by step. It’s also a meditation, a combination of intention and meditation. I try to clear my mind when I paint, so that eventually the painting will realize itself.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Joan Vennum is a native of New York. She studied art in the 1950s at the University of Illinois with Abe Rattner and at Washington University with Abstract Expressionist Paul Burlin, who was a strong influence. Inspiration has also come from painters Piero della Francesca, Diego Velazquez and Philip Guston. Vennum is married to the painter Ted Kurahara.
Vennum has exhibited widely in the United States and Sweden. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum; The Power Collection of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Konstmuseet, Uttersberg, Sweden; the Skandia Försäkringsbolag, Stockholm; and the Museo Civico, Taverna, Italy.