Juan Bernal finds sublimity in nature's designs, the hidden bounty in nature’s smallest gifts — a single leaf, a drop of water, the morning’s first shaft of light.
Juan Bernal: Pure and Simple presents paintings and photographs from several series by this artist who originally hails from Colombia: The Light (Paintings of Light Rays); Dew (Paintings of Water Droplets); Fragments (Paintings of the Geometry of Leaves).
Artist and architect, Bernal looks deeply into nature’s elemental forms and sees broader life and a larger landscape. He follows the leaf in new color, young and green, until it bursts into the brilliant orange of life realized. In his works Bernal perfectly balances the genres of landscape and still-life, urging us to step closer, pause, and enjoy the shimmering lushness of nature in the everyday.
To contrast these close-up views of nature, Bernal creates a new painting for this exhibition —The Great River—a six by nine foot panorama of a composed landscape along the banks of the Hudson River, his scene inspired by the grandly-scaled compositions of 19th-century Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Jasper Cropsey. These earlier painters often combined sketches of different locales to create one idealized scene they then returned to their studios to perfect. Bernal, too, creates a Hudson River scene but “sketches” first, not with portable easel and paint, but with camera and computer. He shows how, piece by piece, from first photograph to final painting a work comes together.
Key to Bernal’s paintings is light. Light shines through a leaf or a droplet of water. A leaf illuminated bears its elongated vein and opens its internal structure to our sight. We sense our connection to Nature’s rationality and reflect on its suggestion of the divine — both wellsprings of life.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website