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Tinney Contemporary offers intriguing mix of abstract, representational art
Peri Schwartz, Bottle & Jars XX. Acrylic on canvas.

By: MiChelle Jones

NASHIVILLE, TENN.- In Tinney Contemporary’s current show, Peri Schwartz’s colorful abstract paintings are interspersed with her large graphite drawings.

The subject of most of these pictures is the artist’s own studio, a 10th-floor corner office in a 1930s building in New Rochelle, N.Y. The effect of seeing alternating views of the space, in color and black and white as well as abstract and representational, is stunning.

The Architect Within will remain on view through March 24.

On location
“It’s just there and it’s available at all times,” Schwartz says of why she began focusing exclusively on her studio. “Also, it’s something I can change and move around and rearrange as opposed to a landscape, a cityscape or even a portrait. It’s something I can manipulate as much as I like.”

Schwartz uses the space “almost like a stage set,” not only adjusting props, but also adding colors. For example, she paints drawing boards in hues complementary to those of the various art books she stacks in the foreground of her paintings.

Other pieces in the show depict an array of bottles and jars, scenes also staged in Schwartz’s studio.

Originally these items were merely the ones used in her work; she started painting them after the colors of the contents caught her eye. Eventually, however, she began buying products simply so she could incorporate the vessels into her tablescapes.

Now she has 30 bottles and jars filled with linseed oil, red wine vinegar and other liquids. By altering their placement — moving a bottle of clear alcohol behind the yellow linseed oil, for example — she can intensify the colors to suit her composition.

Beyond convenience, Schwartz also focuses on her studio because she likes depictions of interiors.

“I would be more drawn to an interior than I would be to a Turner painting, which is more ephemeral or atmospheric,” she says.

She is particularly fond of Matisse’s paintings of studios and Vermeer’s domestic spaces. When she looks at Vermeer works, it’s not 17th-century coziness that appeals to her, rather she’s drawn to the “horizontals and verticals.”

View of her world
Schwartz’s drawings and paintings contain grid lines similar to a viewfinder’s hash marks. These are subtle, just enough of a presence to be noticed. They correspond to lines she draws on things in her studio — the walls, table tops, etc. — as she’s reinterpreting them in her work.

That interpretation differs between the paintings and the drawings.

Though the drawings are usually done as studies for the paintings, they are in sharper focus and have a more polished look. Because they are less abstract, Schwartz’s emphasis on lines is more obvious. The tension between diagonals (of tables and books) versus the straight lines (walls and windows) are especially evident.

“There’s something about the crispness of the charcoal that I really love. It seems more important to get it absolutely right in a drawing than in a painting. I tend not to like a more finished look in a painting,” Schwartz says.

In the drawings, the spaces seem calmer, neater. Details such as city views beyond the windows and the light-catching glass covering the table tops are included. The compositions are noisier in the paintings. Various items in the room are still recognizable but seem more chaotic in their abstracted state.

Again, this back and forth between the work heightens the effect of each piece.

“It’s a very hard balance to do representational art and abstract art, you’re really on the fence, and I find that’s where I want to be,” Schwartz says. “I need to look at a subject; it’s very important for me to be stimulated and excited by looking at something — and yet I want it to be abstract.”

Reproduced with permission from The Tennessean

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