Golden aspen leaves fluttering in the wind. Water flowing across a granite rock bed. A crystal clear mountain lake reflecting a pure blue sky. The moment of totality during a solar eclipse. Refining these moments in nature down to their core, artist Sarah Winkler then amplifies them in her bold abstract paintings.
Winkler’s abstract landscapes offer a contemporary viewpoint of the Western landscape. Her approach to pictorial space references the tradition of American landscape painting, echoing the expansiveness of paintings by artists like Albert Bierstadt. She distills the essence of a landscape’s qualities, or, as she describes it, “Getting down to the basic properties of landscape– that’s what I am trying to simulate.” Though at first glance her pieces appear simplified, they could not be less so; a sophisticated creative process builds intriguing geological textures and layers into each work.
Winkler’s process begins with what she describes as “disposable experiments.” Ink and acrylic are manipulated on Mylar and Duralar surfaces with alcohol and solvents to simulate the natural patterns she observes in the environment. She pushes her medium to the limit, translating the spontaneity of paint into the processes and effects of erosion, accretion and reflection. These patterns are then scanned into the computer and printed as special paper, which she collages on small panels to build the composition. Once the landscape’s design is finalized, she draws it onto large-scale wood panels and hand paints each section individually.
The Western landscape and its grand vistas of mountains, mesas, and rock formations serve as her primary content, but she also looks further afield to European environments. Current work explores the landscapes of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Italy and Iceland.
A recent trip to view totality during the Great American Solar Eclipse in Wyoming serves as the subject matter for her latest body of work. Based on her perception of color during the moment of totality, these mostly black and white monochromatic Wyoming landscapes are infused with flashes of color, including yellows, pale blues and greens, browns, and soft pinks. Winkler challenged herself to create depth and warmth in the textures and color palette of each piece. “From the eclipse I learned how to desaturate, but the color is still there,” she says. “I use a million grays, mixing up or down. ” Bold contrasts of light and dark shapes are balanced by the subtle hues within her multitude of grays.
Nestled in a stunning mountain valley near Morrison, CO, Winkler’s home studio overlooks the same grand vistas that inspire her work. An avid hiker, she exhibits throughout the Western United States. Her July 2018 solo exhibition at K Contemporary in Denver will feature her Great American Solar Eclipse paintings in three stages- first contact, totality, and third contact. For more information, visit sarahwinkler.com.
Julia Rymer is an abstract painter and writer based in Colorado, where she creates work inspired by nature, science, and color theory. Learn more at juliarymer.com.