"Suzy Barnard: Uncharted Waters"

Oils by: Suzy Barnard
Featured at: Bryant Street Gallery
When: June 1-30, 2014
Where: Bryant Street Gallery, 532 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, California
Hours:10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; till 7 p.m. on Thursdays
Information: Call 650-321-8155 or visit

Suzy Barnard
Copyright © Bryant Street Gallery. All rights reserved
"Quiet Light," oil on wood panel, 16" x 19," by Suzy Barnard
Bringing life to water
Painter Suzy Barnard's use of oils brings beautiful depths to her work
June 23, 2014

Oil paint, Willem de Kooning once said, was invented to paint flesh, but he could have made an equally valid case — certainly Monet could have — for oil mixing nicely with the subject of water.

Oil's translucency and infinite nuances of hue and shade make it adept for depicting water's rippling windblown surfaces, and its immobile or at least slower-moving depths.

San Francisco painter Suzy Barnard has focused on the waters of the bay (with its panoply of cargo ships) for years. Her paintings, based on photographs, but executed with large palette knives and scrapers, expertly ply the middle course between realistic depiction in spatial depth and flat modernist abstraction that emphasizes materiality and process.

In an e-mail, the artist described her recent drift toward "the more abstract realm. Basically, I'm allowing myself to experiment more and more with the amorphous world of color, and allow the painting to lead the way more than the literal translation of what I saw. It's still led by initial ah-ha moments of things I've seen, and ships, if not so visible, are still part of the drama even if not in evidence."

Fifteen large paintings on view at Palo Alto's Bryant Street Gallery through June 30, 2014, provide richly textured and colored views of the bay in all its meteorological variety, with modulated greens, yellows and purples infusing, complementing and sometimes supplanting the expected dominant blues.

Barnard’s command of color and her paint-knife virtuosity meld so well that the paintings seem fresh and spontaneous (whatever the actual case may have been).

All the works are horizontal in format, and composed of softly flickering parallel bands of color that suggest timeless immanence and slow drift rather than ceaseless ebb and flow, let alone the crashing surf of faux-photographic cliché seascapes.

The titles — "Over There," "Hidden Depth," "In the Tie of Blue Green," "Quiet Light," "Celadon Shift," "Sea of Dreams," "Gentle Turquoise," and "Uncharted Blues" — reinforce this romantic or meditative dimension, although it’s worth mentioning that a touch of humor has crept into several of the titles, which now allude to food and food coloring: "Plum Pudding," "Hint of Vanilla," "Lemon & Lime" and "Radiant Vanilla Pink."

DeWitt Cheng is curator of Stanford Art Spaces.

Email DeWitt Cheng at

Suzy Bryant
Copyright © Bryant Street Gallery. All rights reserved
"Plum Pudding," oil on wood panel, 44" x 51," by Suzy Barnard
Suzy Barnard
Copyright © Bryant Street Gallery. All rights reserved
"Over There," oil on wood panel, 16" x 19," by Suzy Barnard


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