Meredith Pardue is an engaging and talented artist living and working in Austin, Texas. I had the privilege of speaking with Ms. Pardue this week about her work, her inspiration and her process of painting – which I find fascinating. The paintings themselves are beautiful and peaceful, and highly successful compositions. I was drawn again and again to the oversized canvases in her most recent series, “This Cloud” on display at Laura Rathe Fine Art. The great scale makes an incredible impact on the viewer from afar, and manages to get very complex as you view the painting at closer range. I love the depth, color, and transparent effects of each piece in the series, but the larger ones really take my breath away.
The paintings are successful, I feel, because of many merging factors that are simply intuitive to Ms. Pardue. First, the inpiration behind much of her work comes from nature. And in nature one finds a pleasing medley of colors and textures. Ms. Pardue has written that she is: “Inspired by the transparencies of water, the translucency of petals, and the opacities of foliage.” She gives the most marvelous description of the humid, heavy Louisiana air and gorgeous wet and green and brackish colors imprinted on her mind from childhood. The heavy growth of flora, kudzu, gray spanish moss, lichens in trees, bright sparkling green algae on black swamp water. All these things growing on top of each other, yet strangling each other as well. This idea of growth and decay, the coming together and pulling apart in nature is reflected in Ms. Pardue’s work. There is cohesion and tension in each single composition. She speaks about this and much more in this video on Meredith Pardue.
Ms. Pardue’s process of making art is the second part of the overall success of her work in my opinion. She starts with the painting on the floor, and drops a myriad of paint colors on the canvas creating chaos. She throws her whole shoulder into the process of painting with a brush or roller; the work becoming more complex with each layer. At a certain point she knows the canvas is ready to move to the wall where she begins a different, more controlled, conversation with the painting. She begins to build up and alter with oil paints. She edits with white, but underneath the white is a rich build up of colors at play. There is a trick of the eye created by the white being thicker in many places than the translucent colors of the botanical organisms. One would think the white might be the background, but this lovely play of pulling and pushing between the colors and the white creates a dynamic canvas. It is full of such flowing energy that it appears the paint might just dance off the edge were it not stopped by the canvas.
The mark making of an artist on the canvas is like their handwriting, and the need to produce these marks is the driving force behind a life in an artist’s studio. Ms. Pardue said that the studio is a sacred place for her; a place of freedom. While her mark making is very different from Jackson Pollock, in some ways their process is similar I think. Jackson Pollock replied in an interview once: “The method of painting is the natural growth out of need. On the floor [the canvas], I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, and work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” In this way the dialog between the artist and the canvas is intuitive. In the case of Ms. Pardue the process and the inspiration come together to create a complex canvas that reads fluidity and grace.
Several pieces from different series by Meredith Pardue can be seen in Houston at Laura Rathe Fine Art. Her works on canvas range in price according to scale, here is a sample of just a few: 5″ x 7″ ($600), 72″ x 96″ ($16,000), 96″ x120″ ($26,000). The series, “This Cloud”, is on display until May 25th. I will visit this series a few times before it comes down; they are worth a visit – the gallery is a super cool space as well. Please join me! Ms. Pardue is represented by galleries in New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, and Singapore.