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Dinora Felske Justice

 

ART NEW ENGLAND Feb/Mar 2004 - Susan Boulanger

Dinora Felske Justice, a young artist from Brazil, uses the luminous materiality of oil paint to capture nature’s solace. The twenty-nine works gathered at the Kantar Gallery demonstrate Justice’s ability to meld classical technique and modern sensibility in paintings of mesmerizing richness.

Juxtaposing Renaissance precision and techniques (such as scumbling and glazing) with an abstract, modern treatment – by way of the Turner of Rain, Steam, and Speed – of broad areas of light and color, Justice unites classical atmospheric illusionism with patterned surfaces asserting modernist immediacy and objectness. This subtle pull creates a vitalizing tension and urgency that gives a powerful edge to the works’ dreamlike quality. In Qeimada III, drifting gray-white mists heightened with citron and violet rise from wind-brushed grasslands to obscure encircling woodlands. The image conveys transcendent beauty and anonymous familiarity, timelessness and transformation, narrative and silence.

The coincident Rembrandt show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, underscores both Justice’s association with and divergence from the Old Master tradition. Whereas Rembrandt’s landscapes seemingly extend for miles, even Justice’s most panoramic works, the Amazonia series, for example, forego vastness for enveloping intimacy. Most revealing is the contrast between Rembrandt’s landscapes, which abound with signs of human enterprise, and Justice’s, in which no human presence is indicated, only the art object’s implicit creator and viewer.

Rembrandt places humankind – farmers, children, lovers – at the world’s center. His explorations of nature incorporate humanity’s relation to it, and each natural motif has its contiguous human artifact: farmhouse, bridge, boat. Humans, however, no longer feel superior to nature or take their exploitation of it as an unquestionable, benign right or necessity. Justice’s serenely empty landscapes invoke a time before and after human occupation. Her avowed respect and concern for nature is superbly served by her ability to both render and imagine its impenetrable, vulnerable beauty.

The Hauntingly
Beautiful Landscapes
Of Dinora Felske Justice

By Barbara Rizza Mellin *

Newton-based artist Dinora Felske Justice believes every artist has one particular subject that compels him/her to paint. For Justice, that subject is landscapes. “There is a perfect marriage of the universal and personal in the depiction of nature,” she says. But, nature and landscapes are more than just pretty scenes for this artist. Rather, she is referring to the “all-encompassing presence” that she contends is the “character of space and its depiction.” Her paintings are simultaneously real and ethereal.

Sinfonia Natural IV

Justice, whose mother was an art educator, has been creating art since early childhood in her native Brazil. She studied with renowned artists Wilson Alves, Ernest Frederico Scheffel and Ariadne Decker before coming to the United States. Here, she earned a Certificate in Graphic Design from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and a degree in Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Boston, where she was Valedictorian of the Class of 2001.

Justice claims the evolution of her artistic style has quickened its pace in the past two years. Her canvases “have become more metaphorical,” she says, “moving toward imaginary landscapes that are more personal and almost spiritual.” As a result, Justice feels her work, now created with “less constraints,” is “not just a record of the physical phenomenon,” but rather “more transcendental.”

Justice draws on her rich visual memories of her homeland, as well as impressions of her adopted country, to provide inspiration for her landscapes. She observes nature on long walks, often photographing specific elements for future reference or making value sketches along the way. She then recomposes and changes the arrangement of natural elements to comprise a wholly new imaginative landscape, which she creates in oil on canvas. Since she never includes man-made objects, her compositions evoke a peaceful timelessness. Amazonia III, for example, is an imaginative interpretation of places seen and remembered.

Like the artists who have influenced her – Casper David Friedrich and Joseph William Turner – Justice actually paints light and air.

The quality most striking in her work is the atmospheric presence that permeates the space. The viewer can almost feel the depth of the scene as an ever-present atmosphere envelopes the elements and blurs distances.

To achieve this effect in her art, Justice applies the layering techniques of ancient Dutch masters.

“It is a form of indirect painting,” she says, “where you build up a perception of depth by glazing or scumbling.” Glazing – overpainting with a transparent color – adds a “jewel-like luminosity” to the area, while scumbling – the overpainting of an area with matte, opaque pigments – tends to soften the edges, to create a rich, dense illusion of atmospheric space. “It is actually a retinal phenomenon,” she explains, “allowing us to perceive color differently.”

Often working on three canvases at a time (to allow for slow-drying oil paints), Justice likes to juxtapose the techniques. In Pantanal I, a hauntingly beautiful oil painting in hues of greens and blues, the background is expressive in its diffused representation, while the foreground is detailed, communicating more directly with the viewer.

Justice composes her landscapes by positioning images to “produce a penetrating, yet slightly unconventional effect.” To achieve this result, the artist often begins with a small (2”x4”) pencil mock-up of the paintings, showing the compositional position of key elements and the value structure of lights and darks. Later, after the painting is more than halfway completed, she sometimes creates another mock-up (approximately 4”x4”) in color on gesso paper, to help solve any problems that may have arisen with the original design. For example, while working on one landscape with a tree on the left-hand side and a large area of warm golden sky in the opposite quarter, Justice decided the composition needed more interest, but she didn’t want to add another tree. After recreating the painting in miniature, she experimented with possible solutions. Ultimately, she solve the problem by adding a blue-gray cloud mass that balanced the strength of the trees and cooled the color of the sky, all the while contributing drama to the scene.

It would be easy for Justice to concentrate exclusively on her well-received oil paintings, but the creative spirit within her compels her to explore new areas of expression and communication. Her current fascination is with the possibility of three-dimensional representations of space. She is developing installations that allow the viewer to wander through landscape images – paintings of various widths suspended from the ceiling and painted on two sides. Justice first explored this concept in her senior project at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, where she was awarded the senior prize for painting. Anthony Apesos, head of the MFA program at AIB, observed “the conceptual and formal issues of these [installations] were explored with invention and intelligence.” Her 3-D landscapes, says Justice, are both “a psychological and physical space, encompassing, as in nature.” She sees the art community as stagnant in its limited, exclusively two-dimensional representations of landscapes. Justice would like to create a three-dimensional installation that “challenges and expands the whole idea of art and space.”

Whether in her two-dimensional paintings or three-dimensional installations, landscapes remain the compelling subject for this artist, and those who view her work are the beneficiaries of her compulsion.

Kantar Fine Arts presents an exhibition of Dinora Felske Justice's oil paintings, Add It All Up, Then Simplify, from October 10 - November 7, 2004. On Thursday evening, October 21, 7:30pm, at the gallery, Ms. Justice will discuss the meaning of the title of this exhibit, especially as it applies to her current paintings.  Justice’s artwork can also be seen at her Upcoming Exhibitions:

November - December 2004 Groton Public Library

June 2005 – Newton Free Library Gallery

*reprinted with permission of Middlesex Beat, September2003, Featured Cover Artist & pg. 14 and 15

 

Winner of The Middlesex Beat Contest ~ "The Middlesex Beat gave me a tough assignment as juror since only one person could walk away with the prize. Quite simply, there was too much compelling work from which to choose...

"It was this ...quality of conjuring up the essential while purifying the elements represented that ..characterizes the paintings of Dinora Felske Justice. Justice's landscapes transport the viewer to a safe haven where our senses are delighted and our spirit is gently renewed. There is a soothing, mystical quality to her work. And yet, it is not only the emotional nature of her paintings that distinguishes her work, technically she also has mastered her medium. Though Justice relies on old master techniques to create her paintings, her vision is uniquely her own. One anticipates much from this young artist, whose mature style and expression already is notable and worthy of commendation."


Rebecca Reynolds, the former Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Fellow of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, currently holding a Luce Fellowship and completing her dissertation on Anna Hyatt Huntington for Boston University. (More Here)


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