Passing Through: New work by Adele Eustis

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Free Fall

“Passing Through”at Shift Gallery through Dec. 26.

By Cynthia Hibbard
Adele Eustis’ modest and untitled show of just six well-placed oil paintings belies the richness and maturity of her densely layered work.

Completed over a three-year period due to the competing demands of her family pickle business, Eustis’ paintings all show her joy in the immersion of the painting process.

“I try not to overthink things too much anymore”

“I try not to overthink things too much anymore,” she said. Painting has become “a very positive practice for me.  It’s less and less about the painting itself and more about this long-term relationship I have with the materials, the two dimensional plane and the activity of it.”

Her method of constructing layers is perhaps most clearly seen in her series Grounds for Texture, 1-3.  Here, the multi-planed imagery, in wintery hues of golds, rusts, reds, blues and blacks, calls to mind the variety of nests found in nature, a source reference that Eustis has pursued for years.

In earlier work she went from drawing nests to actually constructing them out of twigs, an organic evolution from her concentration, in the early 2000s, on painting trees.

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Grounds for Texture

But these abstracted nest paintings are less visual manifestations of her subject than they are constructed evocations of the idea of it.  As such, they more closely rely on the build-up of materials through layers– indeed, much like nest-making– leading to their resolution than to any fealty to the subject itself.

“I just keep distilling this sense of something while painting and trying not to lose it,” Eustis said.  “It’s there but I’m not trying to be heady about it.  It’s more that it seems like I’m just trying to let it pass through me.”

Aptly named, the Grounds for Texture are just that–highly textured, multiple layers of paint with touches of dictionary text transferred through wax and lines drawn through scrunched-up waxed paper added to multiple planes of oil paint.

“I’m always seeking new ways to get the paint down”

Eustis enjoys innovating with paint. “I’m always seeking new ways to get the paint down,” she said.  “It’s really tricky with paint because it’s so hard to actually apply.  It’s hard to give it a large range of looks to dress it up.”

Color is also very much an “essence” for Eustis and her Pass Through painting, though created separately from her series (intended as a triptych), is of the same and deeply personal color palette and also is reminiscent of nests.

The very distillation of color is, almost by default, the subject matter of a final pair of Eustis’ most recent paintings, shown on separate walls, Free Fall and Family Flight.  These two are loosely based on “something I saw out there in the world–sets of colors and ways I thought something could be created,” she said.

As restful counterpoints to the energetic swirls, dabs and vibrant colors in her other paintings, the two show a deceptively calming simplicity of being boiled down to neutral palettes and their application. But their monochromatic surfaces seem to barely contain an apparent riot of activity below that peaks through in a few, bold calligraphic marks and at edges.

This is the way Eustis likes to paint, deep into her process, turned away from external noises and pressures–feeling her way to satisfactory resolutions simply through the application of paint.