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The Art of Ann Templeton:  A Step Beyond

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from Part One: The Art & Life of Ann Templeton

"Every brush stroke becomes a note." - AT

"Contralto," oil, 48x48

The brush of Ann Templeton flows with rich, vibrant color. As an expressionist, she relies on the spontaneous and impulsive, dabbing her brush in a pile of paint that feels right for that particular moment, letting intuition have a say in what goes down on the canvas. As a lover of color, she enjoys the odd tube of new paint that comes her way -- this season, it may be a warm violet that she fancies and serves as a leitmotif in her work, and next season, it may be a dark but brilliant and unusual green that wins her heart. However, this intuition and spontaneity are, in part, illusions created by a master colorist through careful manipulation of hues both warm and cool, analagous and complementary, gray and clean.

Over 30 years of painting have given Ann the skill of a practiced jazz musician -- every painting is a performance piece, an improv played perfectly the first time. She plays no note too softly or too loudly; her rhythm does not stumble; she stops no passage so she can play it over again to "get it right" for her audience. Taking her cue from the orchestra, the swing band or the opera, she puts her brush to play as an instrument. Ann, who paints always to music, uses this analogy herself. "I believe a painting," she says, "should begin gently, build to a crescendo and then end quietly, so it becomes a piece of music. Every brush stroke becomes a note."

The coin of music is abstraction, and Ann's art is no different. She quickly carves up a landscape into a jigsaw puzzle of shapes of value and color, and then she lays this on the canvas with swift, sure strokes. Even at this point, before the introduction of details that may suggest leaves or rocks in the river, the viewer sees the abstraction as landscape, because Ann has taken care to retain the properties of a landscape. Adhering to John F. Carlson's rules of how light behaves in nature, she makes one shape bluer and grayer than the others so it reads as a range of distant mountains; another shape, greener and richer so it reads as an upright plane and suggests a nearby thicket of trees; a third shape, brighter and more yellow so it reads as the flat plane of a meadow in the foreground. Even at this point of simple abstraction, she has crafted into the piece a feeling of depth and atmosphere. The details that signify leaves and rocks in the river she will add -- if she adds them at all -- only to emphasize her center of interest, and only if they do not stop the rhythm and flow of rich, vibrant color.

Ann's landscapes of places as far-flung as the coast of California, the mountains of Colorado, the villages of Mexico, the seaports of Portugal, and even the juniper-dotted limestone hills near her home in New Mexico -- just a stone's throw from the home of that late master painter of the Southwest, Peter Hurd -- have won her not only collectors worldwide but students by the hundreds. Ann has taught painting workshops almost as long as she has painted. Her many students have taken to her method of abstracting the landscape, laying in bright, transparent washes and then playing against this underpainting with opaque paint and a minimum of detail. Despite this, her style remains unique in the world of painting, a style that is the result of years of hard-won learning and refining, combined with her expressive and intuitive color sense and the rhythm of her hand....

All Images and Text Copyright © 2004 Ann Templeton