Though Susan Cantrick’s paintings are composed mostly of abstracted planes of color, they defy any notion of flatness. The more one looks at Cantrick’s rich fields of color and intricate sections of textured patterning, the more her uniquely layered perspective comes into view. Cantrick regularly employs many of the traditional elements of painting: scale, shape, color, tone, line, perspective, and texture. However, she mixes these traditional elements with other materials—paper, pencil, and ink-jet printing—to make subtle yet markedly nontraditional collage and assemblage-like compositions.
In a recent series of paintings, sbc (2014), Cantrick meshes acrylic paint, pencil, ink-jet prints, paper, canvas, and pastel in varying combinations. What’s striking about her use of such varied materials is the remarkable aesthetic coherence of the works in the sbc series. One gets the sense that Cantrick is challenging herself to make aesthetically similar works with many sets of materials while also challenging her viewer to attempt to see and identify the varying materials as distinct components. About the difficulties involved in making abstract paintings, Cantrick says, “My challenge is to create compelling analogs not of white noise itself, but of the moment at which it begins to filter into consciousness.” Aptly, she describes her compositions as representative of the very instant when creativity solidifies first into component parts, and second into a coherent whole. In turn, this is one of the many ways that her audience might read the work, as a solidified coherence of potentially confounding materials.
Furthermore, by titling all the works with the same letters, sbc, followed by a different number for each—sbc 176, sbc 177, etc.—she reinforces the notion that these works are indeed part of a fluid and distinctly serial vision. Another interesting layer resides in the titles of these works, as sbc are the artist’s initials, which emphasizes each work in the series as an extension of the artist herself.
In sbc 175 (2014), the composition swims with overlapping planes of opaque and transparent pastel colors that feel nearly three-dimensional, not in an illusionistic sense, but in more of a physical, tangible sense—like hills seen from an airplane. The painting also evinces an interesting kind of repetition. A group of colors in the middle right of the painting seems to be a smaller version of a larger repeating pattern, and in turn an even smaller version of that pattern sits in the middle left of the composition—the painting seems to be mimetically copying itself in varying scales, spinning off into miniature compositions. These are the types of details that surreptitiously populate Cantrick’s paintings.
The coherence in the work gives Cantrick’s oeuvre striking resonance. Composition after composition, she drives home a richly layered and scintillating set of visual experiences. Each composition holds myriad juxtapositions that swallow the eye, slowly yet rhythmically, guiding the viewer’s sight around each painted surface from one abstract vignette to the next.
Susan Cantrick is an American painter living and working in Paris, France. Cantrick was formally trained as a violinist and earned her BA from Bennington College, Bennington, VT, and her MM from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. From 1997 to 2002, Cantrick studied fine arts at the WICE in Paris, FR. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in cities around the world, including Paris, France; Boston, MA; New York, NY; Belgrade, Serbia; and Bennington, VT.