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Posted on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 : 5:08 a.m.

Pierre Paul Gallery showcasing Mark Sedgeman's paintings

By John Carlos Cantu


"The Sun Also Rises I"

Mark Sedgeman’s “Visual Meditations” at the Pierre Paul Gallery is a career retrospective that finds this Irish Hills resident reminiscing about the past but also pointing optimistically to the future.

As is always the case with the visual arts, we’re left figuratively looking between canvases to see the artist’s personality shine through. In Sedgeman’s case, this isn’t so much an abstract exercise as it’s a matter of connecting the art to the artist’s whole output.

This is in large part because Sedgeman brings the same intensity to his painting as he does his sculpture. So it’s not so much that he figuratively carves his representation as much as he literally carves the composition with a thematic intensity.

As Pierre Paul Gallery Manager Beth Mitchell says in her exhibition statement, “Sedgeman’s painting style is the unique product of fifty years of oil paint study and experimentation.

“Often referred to as an impressionist, Sedgeman admits that he’s found insight from the works of Monet, Manet, and Degas. In addition to these masters, however, Sedgeman also pays homage to the works of post-impressionists Pierre Bonnard and Cezanne, 20th century sculptor Marino Marini, and J.M.W. Turner.

“By studying the masters,” concludes Mitchell, Sedgeman “discovers new ways to approach light, shape, and color. In the end, (his) style is the culmination of many techniques instinctually woven together to produce a painting.”

These diverse influences have in common an artistry that seeks to carve imagery in a manner similar to the approach through which sculptors handle their three-dimensional space. The crucial difference, of course, is that this impressionist-oriented painter uses his pigments to carve representative space on a flat surface.

And this makes the Pierre Paul reference to Marino Marini and J. M. W. Turner especially significant — Marini because of his interest in shaping artful three-dimensional motion and Turner for inferring such motion through his pigments. Like his mentors, Sedgeman’s work is always an arrested motion. It is as though each work is not only frozen in time — but it’s also anxious to move on. Each composition is therefore seemingly only a single temporal instance, like the single image taken from a film strip.

The Pierre Paul Gallery draws this to our attention with their emphasis on his “The Sun also Rises” paintings. Three oil compositions painted near his home on Goose Lake, Sedgeman (as the gallery statement says) “creates iconic landscapes of all that is around him painting images that culminate in a perfect marriage of land, water and sky in a plethora of stunning colors.”

This remarkable series of paintings tells us everything we should know about his art. And in particular, the first of this trio illustrates Sedgeman’s ability to carve time out of his facture.

With a nod to Monet and an even more enthusiastic nod to Turner, Sedgeman’s “The Sun also Rises I” crafts an impressionistic group of buildings flanking a waterline that in turn is skirted by an expanse of background trees. Yet this description only touches on the painting.

For what Sedgeman does in “The Sun also Rises I” is capture a fleeting moment whose atmosphere survives only for that moment through a fluid, atmospheric palette.

Granted, there are a number of other Sedgeman paintings on display that are equals. In particular, his “The Music Room” (featuring three classical Indian dancers) is vivid in its interpretation of this Asian locale. “Poor Haiti” by contrast depicts the poverty these people suffered after their 2010 earthquake. And even a seemingly low key still-life called “Marking Time” depicting salt and pepper shakers, ceramic coffee cups, and napkin dispenser in a clever homage to stillness.

By pivoting his painterly compositions expertly between representation and abstraction, Sedgeman impressionistically translates what he feels as much as he sees. And what he seen for a half-century is the movement of time.

“Mark Sedgeman: Visual Meditations” will continue through Feb. 28 at the Pierre Paul Gallery, 3370 Washtenaw Ave. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 734-975-1050.