María Schön

Nature, intellect, emotion and imagination hold court in María Schön’s bright, shimmering landscape paintings. It’s hard to pin down which is dominant, which is supportive. It doesn’t matter. What comes through in her series “Landscape and Memories” is a Rousseau-like world of lush vegetation, vivid colors and harmony, pared down to the elemental forms of 20th-century hard-edge and color field abstraction. Then Schön reduces further but adds textures, narratives, sensuality and romanticism, weaving individual paintings as well as clusters (diptychs, triptychs or grids) into transportive worlds. We end at a place we’d all like to visit.

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“There’s a certain nostalgia in the work that draws from childhood memories of being in a very specific place in Venezuela, which is the beach. I have taken that with me as a way of reminding myself of who I am, where I come from and where my dreams began. Music is one of the foremost expressions of art in Venezuela, and [my landscape] work has a musicality to it. It’s a percussion, a vibration that I know only from that place. I try to capture it in the atmosphere…I can almost hear it in the distance, caught in the sound of the waves.”

Waves are a central feature in Schön’s paintings. “I basically work with four elements, a very reductive vocabulary, which for me represent sky, water, land and vegetation.” Schön creates them through four basic building blocks—color, line, texture and form—offsetting positive and negative space.

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In “Coro,” a swirling red presence rubs against a cool, dusky void. It’s simultaneously approaching and receding, active and passive, fiery and chill. “The lower portion is an ocean that rolls toward us. It’s very textural…and above, the sky, the negative shape, I achieve that atmosphere through many layers of paint that are brushed or rubbed onto the canvas…Different colors get caught in the warp of the canvas as specks. Each one of those specks of color, when I weave them together, creates that shimmering negative space.”

Schön paints mostly in a 44×44-inch square format, which she described as “an exercise in how to deploy a very reductive vocabulary and create as many compositions and landscapes as possible.” But nature does not like to be restricted. “It wants to keep going. That’s why when one sees my work, one painting flows into the other like a storyboard.”

Schön avoids literal references. Mounds of verdant green meet sapphire shapes that could be sky or ocean. Water can be flowing upward and it might be a mountain or a mango that fills the foreground. The line is lyrical, sensual and feminine. “There are two aspects, there is the child-mother relationship and the cradling, the folds of the mother…and then there is the sexual aspect of women intertwined with that. The shapes tend to be very pregnant. But there’s also an erotic element to the work as well by the way the shapes touch each other.”

As Schön’s landscapes reflect geographies of the mind and heart, they’re also portraits of the artist. “The shapes fitting into each other create a perfect harmony…and I fit at those edges…I’m looking for people to feel a sense of mythic awe. It’s a certain kind of vibration that aims to communicate a perfect balance.”