Peter Malone reviews “Stacks and Traps” at First Street Gallery
“Dana Saulnier’s ostensibly expressionist canvases at First Street Gallery carry a bravado reminiscent at first glance of mid-century abstraction. Yet they flaunt an obvious distance from their action painting precursors by the employment of allusive figurative references. Even among the growing number of painters inspired by a mingling of spatial illusion and surface event, Saulnier reveals an acute sense of impunity in his work. More than any paintings of recent memory, Saulnier’s merge painted illusion and painterly gesture into a compelling vision that embraces 19th-century articulation without definitively describing anything… The ambition Saulnier demonstrates in bridging such a wide cultural synapse is at first startling, though further consideration reveals that the implied chronological markers are not as detached as one might think… His vision is as distinctive and as personal as Goya’s, or Turner’s, or De Kooning’s, for that matter.”
Link: https://hyperallergic.com/158172/from-goya-to-ab-ex-in-a-series-of-brushstrokes/ Transcript of Review: Malone, Peter. “From Goya to Ab-Ex in a Series of Brushstrokes”, Hyperallergic. From Goya to Ab-Ex – Malone
Lance Esplund reviews “Night Tides” at First Street Gallery
The romantic spirit is alive and well in this compelling exhibition of eight writhing, meaty, earth toned oil paintings by Dana Saulnier, all roughly 7 feet by 8 feet. According to the artist this group of “night paintings” began when a loved one lost her memory and “our relationship collapsed into darkness”… Each painting is complete and unique, but feels part of a larger violent cycle exploring energies and dynamics personified. Trees, human limbs, fish scales, leaves, flesh, stones, feathers, and fire converge into unnameable, shadowy mass, threatening the barriers of their canvases. Claiming to work through this his loss, struggling with devouring and generative forces — a world simultaneously interior and exterior, claustrophobic and overwhelming — Mr. Saulnier grapples with the darkness. As light wanes tactility is heightened.”
Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204002304576627294254937116 Transcript of Review: Esplund, Lance. “Exploring Spaces and Life’s Continuity”, Wall Street Journal.Exploring Spaces and Life’s Continuity – Esplund
Curator Dominique Vasseur discusses artist Dana Saulnier’s work exhibited at the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery, Columbus, Ohio.
Dana Saulnier … sort of epitomizes this aspect of really making his art speak to the entire process. The arc of his life has brought him to this moment. Dana, personally, is very interested in philosophy. There is something akin in his work to great baroque altar pieces or history paintings. At the same time, they make one think of abstract expressionist painters of the 1950s. And one finds odd everyday objects in his works, a coffee cup, or maybe a can, or a table, or a chair, that almost imply that there is a narrative going on, but at the same time there is such a disconnect that we’re not really sure how we’re supposed to view that. The feeling of the works is either one of something being constructed or at the same time falling apart and deconstructing, almost violently. They become physical presences that you respond to not merely cerebrally or visually but you respond just to their sheer scale. It’s extremely powerful painting.
Alan Pocaro interviews Dana Saulnier about the ‘Night Paintings’
Pocaro: “I always think of night as being the absence of light rather than thinking of it as a force unto itself. Given that you so often talk about forces, are you thinking of the night as a force?”
Saulnier: “Thinking about what has been common across the work for many years, I have always been considering our experiences as embodied beings. Phenomenological perspectives on embodiment have been important for me. When I make body-like forms they are always conceived as being participatory with the environment, they are receptive- projective zones. I think this potential arises for the viewer from their categorical ambiguity. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s ideas of the night offered themselves as a confirmation for some of my thinking. As I read it, Merleau-Ponty described the way that an embodied being is present to the night as a being that is co-extensive with it. Rather than be shut off by the night we rather have a feeling of being in it. We sense its weight and pressure around us even as we orient to its vast extension. So it is not that we do not sense space at night. We do. We can sense tremendous space that is pregnant with potentials that exceed us. This is different from our experience of the day. In the light of day we are relational in the sense that we are always measuring our position, our relationships to this thing and that thing, which now becomes some otherness, over there. We bounce back and forth between us and them and this and that. In my work, where I use terms like, ambiguous perception, claustrophobia, pressure to characterize the space in the work, Merleau-Ponty’s description of night makes sense. I think it is of a piece with the perceptual, participatory space that I have long pursued in my paintings.”
Joe Bendik reviews “Sense and Absence” at First Street Gallery
“Saulnier’s exhibition, Sense and Absence at First Street Gallery, consists of large dense paintings that invite the viewer to participate. Examining these works is like a meditation; abstract shapes become reality as textures and colors completely engulf the environment… This vision consists of larger spaces that dominate the various figures, creating a whirlwind of layers, shapes and movement along with a strange sense of serenity. You don’t feel like you’re looking at a landscape, you feel like you are in a landscape – a landscape of otherness.
When I walked into that gallery, these paintings made me feel like I was in an alternate universe. The earth tones gave off a mood of familiarity, yet the images themselves were foreign (but not out of place). Saulnier focuses on decaying figurative forms. The effect is an evocative, mysterious combination of other-worldlness with the familiar, which creates a tension between the elements. It feels like stepping into (and out of) a dream where you can’t be sure what is real and what is not.”
Transcript of Review: Bendik, Joe. “Making Tragic Paintings: Dana Saulnier continues to reach into abstraction for something deeper.” Chelsea Clinton News.Making Tragic Paintings – Bendik
Jane Durrell reviews Icons of Presence / Icons of Absence
[excerpted]…meanwhile the Weston’s downstairs galleries housed Icons of Absence: Icons of Presence in which Saulnier’s paintings showed figures in landscapes that at first glance appear to have swallowed the figure whole. These large, compelling canvases, their dark tones relieved but not not softened by lighter areas, initially suggest much magnified sections of living matter, pulsing with growth never forgetting death as life’s unalterable companion…He wants, he has said, for his works to be “spiritually restless,” and these brooding paintings are… These images are beautiful but troubling…
Transcript of Review: Durrell, Jane. “Dana Saulnier, Nancy Fletcher Cassell and Andrew Loughane, at Weston Art Gallery.” Art Papers.Icons of Presence : Icons of Absence – Durrell
Ruth K. Meyer reviews Icons of Presence / Icons of Absence
[excerpted]…Saulnier’s work is highly dramatic. Large canvases become spaces you feel you could move into if you dared, but their mood turbulent, nightmarish, risky and perilous. I liked the way his work reached out for emotional involvement through color, contrasts of light versus dark and powerful brushwork. The palette is 16th-century Venetian like those of Titian and Tintoretto. Beautiful reds and golds and flesh tones weave suggestively through the canvas without a single fully formed figure appearing… Flashes of illumination shoot through gloomy spaces like lightning, and the paint clouds form, activated by marks and gestures of the brush rippling on the surface. Wow…This is pure painting, pure emotion pinned and wriggling on the canvas like a collector’s butterfly.
Transcript of Review: Meyer, Ruth K. “Pure Painters Painting, Nancy Fletcher-Cassell and Dana Saulnier at the Weston Gallery.” IRhine Magazine.Pure Painters Painting – Meyer
Jeanne Fryer-Kohles reviews “Recent Works by Dana Saulnier
Seven large oil paintings by Dana Saulnier… convey the feeling that the artist has plunged into the sea of art’s history, emerging with fresh visions of how that history can be reconstituted to serve his own needs… Superficially, the dominant theme of this exhibition is “figure in landscape.” Saulnier’s titles, however, reveal a complexity of thought and feeling that gives the work dimension…The artist’s most recent work, A Surround of Living Air,exceeds the others by virtue of its very free, confident brushwork and a palette of creamy whites, delicate grays, siennas and umbers. This bleached landscape, with its dead trees and rushing water, is redolent of death and regeneration… Saulnier’s allegorical paintings are tinged with melancholy, a byproduct of remembrance. He has retrieved fragments from the depths of his experience as an artist/teacher and used them to confirm the morality of art as it deflects the savagery of the world.
Transcipt of Review: Fryer- Kohles, Jeanne. “History Inspires Master of Brushstroke.” The Columbus Dispatch.History Inspires Master of Brushtroke – Fryer-Kohles