Terrence Coffman in the Shepherd Express - 2015

Painter engages with places from across the world

By Kat Minerath

Terrence Coffman studies interesting places: Galway Bay on the coast of western Ireland, South Dakota, even the expansive views of Jefferson County from his studio. From those starting points his canvases take interesting turns as they veer inward, toward an intimate engagement with mark making and color.

The Charles Allis Art Museum is showing about 40 paintings in “Recent Works by Terrence Coffman,” and though landscape is foundational, these are not postcard images. The artist pulls back from naturalistic representations, save for a few pieces with defined figures, and goes at his work with fervent handling. Abstraction takes over with an expansive vocabulary of often surprising hues.

In 2011, Coffman was artist-in-residence at Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, County Clare. His spent time exploring the countryside and the rocky Flaggy Shore region, located about 10 miles away. The rugged coast and mountainous Burren inspired a series of works, a number of which are included in the exhibition. The end results are an expression of place. The wildness of wind and blowing grasses and the rushing sea and misty sky are conveyed through multiple layers of oil and acrylic. They are built up and scraped down, layered by dry strokes of paint, decorated with dollops of pure color, and scratched nearly down to the surface by naked lines. What fuels the interesting nature of these compositions is the hand of the artist—the evidence left by his complex and vigorous treatment.

Careful scrutiny of the canvas surfaces is the best way to absorb this exhibition. The light coatings of mint green in the sky of Flaggy Shore #3 are nearly invisible, but their addition creates a discernible sense of strange light. In pieces initiated by Coffman’s travels to South Dakota there is a daringly wild spirit in shocks of electric pink and crimson. Perhaps most experimental is the View from My Studio Rooftop series where the range of brushwork and color delves furthest into the hermetic exploration of painterly technique. These are not pictures about places but representations of the process of painting.

Through Oct. 11 at the Charles Allis Art Museum, 1801 N. Prospect Ave.

To see the review on the Shepherd Express website please click here.