Inside a Hudson River Villa
Clark Gallery Catalogue 1989
I N T R O D U C T I O N
It’s a long leap from mount Eliza, Australia to castle rock on the Hudson. It’s also a very big jump from the painters of the 19th century Hudson River school to mike green, contemporary Australian watercolorist. Despite the differences in geography and time, there are connections between these unlikely partners.
What happened one hundred years ago along the Hudson seeps into Green’s new paintings. They reflect time and its passage. More importantly, they capture light, light and the absence of light, shadow. Time and light are the ingredients of Mike Green’s new series of paintings, “ inside a Hudson river villa.”
To make a connection between the painters of America’s first indigenous school of landscape painting, the Hudson River school, and the Australian painter, may seem an impossible task. Apart from the gap in time, there is a seeming contradiction in philosophy. The artist stated that “in Australia the land nature was historically often hated or reviled for its harshness and at the least, respected or feared.” in America quite the reverse was true. Our early painters were awed by the power and beauty of the natural landscape, wherein they saw the hand of god at work. Mindful of their insignificance in the greater scheme of things, the artists depicted the Hudson River landscape with reverence. Perhaps the link between green’s philosophies
and that of the Hudson River painters is that of an awe of nature ‘Äì whether reverent or fearful.
Mike green quotes Emerson, “a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing but the light is all.” thus the strongest links between green’s work and the Hudson river school really connect in the quality of light depicted. Just as luminism grew out of Hudson River paintings, so the artist’s fascination with light found a natural affinity with the luminists of the 19th century. The curious effects of light and atmosphere in the Hudson river valley inspired painters such as john Fredrick Kensett and Sanford Gifford to paint tranquil scenes in which light dissolves edges and boundaries, suffusing the whole with shimmering luminescence. Just so, green’s interior landscapes respond to the magical properties of Hudson River light which floods through windows, bathing, eradicating, illuminating, contrasting, dusting the interior spaces and objects.
Mike green’s landscapes are not those of the Hudson River school painters, but rather the landscapes of interiors, with chair and carpet, table and mantle, sofa and window becoming the hills, valleys, rivers and rocks of the Hudson River scenes. Houses in green’s native Australia were designed to defeat the light and heat, often turning away from the landscape. Castle rock, built in 1881 by railroad baron, William h. Osborn, was designed to dominate the landscape, not to harmonize with it. By 1881, the Hudson River school of painters had ebbed. The landscape, which inspired the paintings of half a century earlier, now attracted the “robber barons” of the late 19th century. their castle-like houses also turned inward. The marvellous light of the Hudson River crept in through windows creating a more intimate panorama for the painter’s brushes.
Twenty years earlier, Mike green travelled down the Hudson from Montreal. It was on this trip that he first caught sight of castle rock. Two years ago, a chance meeting resulted in castle rocks’ interiors becoming his sight and locus for this series of paintings. Quoting Thoreau, Green states, “He will get to the goal first who stands stillest.” (selected journals, edited by care bode; signet classics, 1967, page 50.)
Mike Green stood still and felt the “vibrations of time and intangible space.” Thomas Cole and his followers alluded to time’s passage by introducing crumbling ruins or isolated tree stumps into their compositions. The connection of time, stillness and contemplation is vital to my work,” states Green. The artist’s antennae pick up sensations emanating from abandoned rooms, rooms as “containers of fragments of time.” as in Green's earlier work, this romantic mysticism is very evident in the new Hudson river series. The overlapping, blurred layers of watercolour in Green’s paintings are designed to blur and confuse a normal sense of time. Enhancing the drama of imagery.
Mike green sees his palette affected, not only by the natural setting of castle rock, but by the colours favoured by Hudson river painters, such as the dark greens evident in three chairs (#2). The foreboding exterior of castle rock was mitigated in the interior with the use of strong colours. Yellow room (#3) captures the play of light patterns on wall and floor, creating high drama and illusion, as did church and blerstadt in their rendering of light and atmosphere in the landscape. The artist worked through his sketches and their colour references, until he believed that “the painting is starting its own life.”
Thus mike green’s new series “inside a Hudson river villa” has its own life. Past history ‘Äì the Hudson River school, luminism, the robber-barons, all contribute to his new body of works. The artist feeds the spirit with physical sensation and knowledge; inspiration springs from a sense of connection with the past and in green’s case, most especially with a sense of time and light - but mostly with light. these luminous works relate to the past
but are completely of the present - the timeless present.
BONNIE L. CRANE
DIRECTOR, CRANE COLLECTION