In Golden Bough, the flowers are mostly gone, replaced by studies of tree branches, pears and landscapes, enlarged again to the point of near-abstraction. One gallery is filled with 11 studies of trees and landscapes in winter and summer. Nartonis' monotype technique lends her forms a soft fullness and surrounds them with rich, saturated areas of dense ink. They are meditative and intimate, as rich as any oil painting but with the even surface quality that can only be achieved in prints.
Judging from the red "sale" dots, the works in the adjoining Gallery III are the real crowd-pleasers. Several prints in this room are smallish in scale (15 by 11 inches), featuring close-ups of pears and tree boughs surrounded by flat areas of shiny gold. These works are unbelievably dazzling. The pears are plump and soft, rendered in a thousand colors from white to pink to teal; they look monumental within this smaller format, anchored solidly in the center, casting deep black shadows. Fruit hasn't been treated this well since Cezanne.
But the dazzling part of these prints is the way they combine solid form with the flat, smooth gold areas. There again is that play of flatness against volume, surface against depth, that can hold my attention forever. These prints also evoke the paintings of Gustav Klimt, and his use of soft painted forms and sparkling patterns. But they are somehow more minimal, limiting pictorial elements to those that carry the most visual weight and suggestion.
Now that I think of it, "pretty" seems too weak a word for Nartonis' prints. They deserve something a little stronger. How about "pretty cool?" Spend a spring day at the show and see what you think.
Cynthia Nartonis' Golden Bough and Judy Child's Spatial Patterns are exhibited at Elliot Smith through June 20; Sue Eisler's Perforations is at William Shearburn through June 12.