By David Shea
Linda Laino’s newest series of figurative paintings are compositionally elegant and visually refined. The elegance is the result of her mastery of brushwork, revealing a true dedication to the art-making process few artists achieve. The brushwork, combined with a refined color palette, make these paintings a visual pleasure to devour. Several of the paintings are presented as diptychs, a bold compositional element that transforms and connects two painted panels into a single work of art, once used extensively for painting altarpieces. This nod to an altar-like quality in her paintings highlights that art can accomplish more than mere visual pleasure by inviting the viewer to enter a spiritual realm that is often evident in Laino’s work. These paintings require pause, reflection, and a silence that is at the very heart of her investigation.
Many of the works rely on dream-like allegories, with the repeated use of imagery that implies movement such as repeat patterns, fluttering thread, bits of cloth, and umbilical cords twisting through the air. Her additional vocabulary of plants, flowers, internal organs, and bones are images that bind us to the natural world and push us to ponder the brief and sometimes brutal dissections we encounter in ordinary life. Captured glimpses remind us of our shared human experience. Nests are a theme as well, alluding to home and birth, small places where we can feel safe. Several dramatic paintings depict birds pinned to walls, broken, flightless, or in containers.
Texture, arrived at through an innovative mark-making and layering process, is evident in Laino’s painting as well. She paints on layers of different media and rice paper applied to a panel. Just as primitive artists drawing in darkened caves used the surface quality of rock to imbue their images with a visceral beauty, she applies the same level of beauty replicated on a flat panel.
No consideration of this artist’s work would be complete without taking a moment to speak directly to a key element found in all great art-making, which is line quality—an often overlooked and under-appreciated element of drawing because when done well, it is effortless beauty. The line quality in Laino’s paintings is elegant and varied, allowing the viewer to dance through thick and thin, heavy or light line passages of pleasure. While her paintings invite narrative, she claims to be most interested in composition and uses elements in her paintings to that end, rather than as any kind of overt symbology. Her interest is not in replicating reality nor in easily digestible images, but rather in challenging the viewer to contemplate new forms in order to convince them of their poignancy.
Having made art seriously for more than 40 years, Laino is a meaningful artist at the pinnacle of her career, as evidenced by this exhibition.