Oct 152007

A crowded composition unfolds before the viewer. Two of the most prominent elements from the artist’s arsenal spread on the panel: the barns and the trees; they interact dynamically, both in color and placement. I think that this piece can be divided into two acts, the main one happening in the foreground — it presents strong friction and contrasts, and the second one, which, like a low-key pink afterthought, takes place in the background, and relieves some of the tension generated at the front.

On the one hand, this composition is uncharacteristically crowded — most of Tracy Helgeson’s barn paintings relish space for its own sake, assigning it an important role as a foil to the large buildings and tree clusters. On the other hand, the concentration of structures creates considerable tension, almost as if we are suddenly being confronted with an urban setting instead of the accustomed country one.

Dark Blue Barn

Each of the three main color areas in the foreground — the red barn, the blue barn (apparently the shaded wall of a red barn as well) and the greenish-yellowish grove — represents a primary hue. While these color “bundles” seem to challenge and inherently repel each other, the physical contours of the structures, including the leafage, perform the opposite: the slope on which they are placed encourages them all towards a single point at the center, towards unification. They gravitate towards the epicenter and may appear to be in the danger of tumbling into a single unified heap.

The love-hate situation of the two buildings and the trees finds an outlet in the background, where another structure, painted in soft pink, stands very close to a tree, in what seems like a peaceful coexistence. In a way, this background act represents a possible “optimistic” development of the primary act: not a heap, but an ordered partnership.

An interesting common feature makes this piece notionally harmonious despite all the confrontations: none of the described elements is visible in its full form — all of them are cut either by the edge of the panel or by their compositional neighbor. This device marks all of the structures as interdependent — they become fully meaningful only in the context of the painting as a whole, where all components intertwine and complement each other.

*this article has been edited at a later date

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