Over the past few years, I’ve been exploring different styles of painting, mostly using the historic center of the city and surrounding neighborhoods as the subject. Of the work I’ve created, certainly some of my favorites are the ones that veer toward surrealism and abstraction, paintings in which the subject takes a step back and allows the overall effect of composition to step forward. The departure from realism allows for new discoveries, and adding a degree of automatism to the painting process can make the result much greater than anything I may have planned out.
Oil on Canvas, 14″ x 11″, 2020
Composition 1 is the first in a series of paintings focusing on the French Quarter with the St. Louis Cathedral at the center and the Cabildo and Presbytere buildings at each side. I like the expressive brushstrokes and the bold, dark lines. The color palette is one that I have used many times, soft grays anchored by rich yellows, ochres and deep reds.
These works have given me the greatest opportunity so far to reach beyond realism. Using the French Quarter as a general muse, and the cathedral as a central focal point, I’ve enjoyed exploring form, color, movement and composition. The paintings I’m most drawn to have expressive brushwork and a sense of movement and overall balance.
Oil on Canvas, 30″ x 24″, 2020
Composition 14 features a collection of French Quarter buildings and the entrance to Armstrong Park at the upper right. This painting was part of a series of 5 completed around the same time. The churches have added colors and, in this one, I love the combination of the rich crimsons against the teal blue-gray of the neighboring buildings. I especially love how the colors and forms came together in this painting.
I’ve always been drawn to abstract expressionism, surrealism and color field painting. I grew up with posters of Kandinsky’s Compositions series on the walls of my room. I love the work of de Kooning, Miró, Hofmann and Frankenthaler. Pure abstraction removes all boundaries, leaving limitless room for interpretation. How you experience and interpret the work is unique and personal. Abstract expressionism challenges the viewer to think about art in new ways.
Oil on Canvas, 14″ x 11″, 2021
Composition 24 features a palette of rich, complementary oranges and blues, magentas and yellows. I am a huge fan of the fauvist painters. The combination of rich hues on opposing sides of the color wheel work to bring a painting to life. I like how the colors came together in this painting that shows the St. Louis Cathedral curving through the water, surrounded by abstract shapes of the French Quarter.
Oil on Canvas, 64″ x 50″, 2021
Composition 28 is at a much larger scale and with more movement. The cathedral and central square take center stage, surrounded by elements of cafes, balconies, cemeteries and the river. I like that parts of the work move toward greater abstraction. A cool blue field of color curves through the center, an anchor surrounded by energy and rich color.
There is much more to come as I plan to continue to use the French Quarter as a subject for compositions. Please visit the Paintings section of my website to see many more New Orleans compositions and follow me on Instagram @davidmcphersonart.