Blue Compositions | Glenn Suokko : Paintings
Available work on view May 18 at the Art Gallery at Simon Pearce in Vermont
Everyone has a favorite color. Mine is blue. It’s always been blue, except for a stretch of time when it was gray. After that spell of vague intermediacy, I got over gray and went back to blue.
I love pure blue, the kind that is not mixed with any other colors. Just blue. I also like azure (sky blue), cerulean (a shade between azure and sky blue), and indigo (the color between pure blue and violet). Blue names and the historical references they evoke intrigue me: ultramarine blue (Giotto and the Italian Renaissance), Egyptian blue (Mesopotamian pottery), navy blue (eighteenth-century English sailors’ uniforms), and Prussian blue (Japanese woodblock prints by Hokusai). And then there is cobalt blue, the color Van Gogh used to paint the sky in his Starry Night over the Rhône, and the precious lapis lazuli, its name alone luxurious enough to live up to its reputation as the finest, most intensely blue blue.
Blue is deep, like the ocean, a color that gets darker the deeper you dive, or lighter the closer you swim to the surface. Blue is the color that mountains in the distance turn the farther you get from them, a natural effect of atmospheric perspective. In a painting that is composed of red, green, and blue, the color red, because it is warm, will appear closest. Green will appear in the middle, because it is a secondary color—a mixture of yellow (warm) and blue (cool). Blue, because it is cool, will appear the farthest away. I like that about blue. Cool and distant. Far away. Deep. I want to dive into blue, like diving into the Caribbean Sea.
There are many blues. The French artist Yves Klein made his own particular blue legendary in the mid-twentieth century, deciding in his work to concentrate on the primary color and the intensity he could master from it, now known around the world as International Klein Blue. There are blues that are not visual, like Kind of Blue, Miles Davis’s legendary 1959 record album, one that I often listen to before, during, or after painting; and there is blue the emotion, as in he is feeling blue these days, a mood analogous to melancholy or depression, a state that some people fall into at one time or another in their lives. Some—mostly painters and poets—fall more times than others. I think of Pablo Picasso’s 1901–04 blue period paintings, perhaps the most poignant union of color and subject to convey the poverty of despondency. Blue reaches deep, it stirs the mind and rubs the heart. Say the words robin’s egg blue and remember the first time you peered into a small nest made of grasses and mud and laid your eyes on the wondrous clutch of eggs. There, blue is the color of joy.
In my studio, tubes of oil paints are labeled Cyan Blue, Sèvres Blue, King’s Blue, Indigo, Ultramarine Blue, Blue-Gray, Prussian Blue. They lie next to a range of whites and grays—all tubes, all colors, neatly organized by hue from yellows to greens to reds to ochers to umbers—in a large, open wooden box that makes it easy for me to find a color when I need it. Silly as it sounds, I love my paints, and, as painting is a solitary activity, they are my good friends; we share mindful—sometimes challenging—creative experiences on canvas. When I squeeze pigment from a tube, it is with a certain degree of sadness that I release the final bit of substance. It’s like saying goodbye, thank you, but unlike a final farewell, I most often have a fresh, full tube by the same name ready to slip into the same space in the box.
In my recent work—compositions and variations—I decided to paint blue. Blue predominates the picture plane in visual constructs that, although inspired by and starting from a place based on the land where I live and work—forest, meadow, hill, mountain, tree, sky, horizon, pond, valley, path—through the process of painting are as individual works less landscapes and more mindscapes. Layers cover up previous layers that reveal other hues and earlier intentions behind them. The compositions are the stories of process; the variations are explorations in repetition to reveal similar differences. Using traditional paintbrushes, pieces of wood, and sandpaper as my tools, lines, shapes, and edges are painted over and rebuilt, and then covered up again. I let the process lead me. I am not in control. I respond to chance. Blue. I dive into it. What is left is what remains, like memory; blue is the farthest-away point to hold on to.
Glenn Suokko, inspired by and starting from a place based on the land, is drawn to painting the representation and abstraction of nature, the familiar and unfamiliar, the rendered object and the flat plain, and brief moments that are transitory and allusive. He paints in oil on pure linen or cotton canvas. In his work he seeks to offer quiet contemplation, and to depict the serenity where he works and lives in rural Woodstock, Vermont. Suokko studied art and design at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, (BFA), and at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (MFA). In addition to his work as a painter, Suokko is an author, photographer, and designer of books on art and design.