Hannah Bureau: Paintings on exhibit at Edgewater Gallery
If you have seen her textural, softly geometric landscapes, it should come as no surprise, that painter Hanna Bureau prefers grays. Before this description brings the word “drab” to mind, know that with these grays Bureau builds vibrant impressions of a scene observed. Fields and sky are rendered in warm and cool grays, with strokes of lilac, ashen green, and blue. Bureau’s wide, fluid brush strokes, thick with paint, impart the richness in the memory of a landscape, while her palette acts as the soft haze of recollection.
“Each individual artist has a unique way of seeing color,” said Bureau.
At the age of eight, Bureau moved from Paris to Cambridge, Mass. with her family, in which she is “the fourth generation of women painters.” As she puts it, she grew up “literally surrounded by art and architecture. My mother and grandmother’s work hung on every wall along with sketches by my father and grandfather who were both architects.”
She pursued art throughout her education, first at the Putney School, then Bard College and the Rhode Island School of Design, and received her MFA in Fine Art from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Bureau currently teaches painting at RISD in Rhode Island, and, as the mother of 3 1/2-year-old twin girls, she juggles a lot ?some might even call her a hero. “I strive to bring art into my daughters’ lives as well as balancing time in the studio with motherhood,” she said.
Bureau painted the paintings exhibited at Edgewater Gallery this month with Vermont in mind. She said she drew on her memories of Vermont from her time at the Putney School. She recently elaborated on the process and inspiration of her paintings.
What draws you to landscapes?
I enjoy the process of editing out what is not essential, and creating the essence of a scene without depicting all the detail. Painting landscape connects me to the beauty of nature and I am constantly striving to capture this beauty on the canvas. All aspects of an abstract painting can be found in nature; abstract shapes and colors, composition, line and texture are all elements that I draw on.
What’s something unique about your process?
My palette is very large in my studio. I love mixing oil paints into beautiful and subtle chromatic grays and pushing them towards warm and cool temperatures. Each individual artist has a unique way of seeing color. I prefer subtle, toned down grays and tend towards cooler colors. I work to keep the immediacy of mark making; to splatter and drip and be very spontaneous. Oil painting feels a bit out of control and free for me, very much like my day to day life ?a beautiful mess.
Who inspires you?
I regularly look to many mid-century abstract painters such as Richard Diebenkorn and Willem de Kooning for their bold and lyrical brushwork and loose treatment of paint.
What are the best words of wisdom you’ve been given from a mentor or teacher?
My teacher from high school, Eric Aho, has had a lasting influence on my work. In high school he told our class that it doesn’t matter what color you choose for painting something as long as it is the right value. I am constantly trying to improve my sense of value in color. I squint a lot at my paintings!
Another mentor of mine has been Jon Imber, whose canvases inspire me. He reminded me always to include opposites in my paintings, for example, warm and cool colors, hard and soft edges, big and little shapes, and on and on.
How has your style has changed?
I really vacillate between pure abstraction and more representational landscape. It is very organic for me to move from one to the other fluidly, and it depends completely on what I want to see at the moment. Each informs the other and I learn from both approaches. I enjoy discovering where my work will lead on any given day.
What are your other passions in life? Do these play into your painting?
Recently I have a passion for garden design. Just as in painting, gardening involves layering, scale, value, timing, texture and rhythm.
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