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'The Bold and the Black'

Sumi paintings by Selinda Sheridan at Matter

“After the Storm,” Sumi painting by Selinda Sheridan. Photo courtesy Matter

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Viewing Selinda Sheridan's show at Matter is like walking into a group exhibition of Sumi painters. There are only six paintings in the show, and each of them is so different from all the others that they could easily be mistaken for the work of six different artists. And yet there are similarities that cannot be denied. There is an old truism that in great art there is always complexity within simplicity or variety within unity. Complexity within simplicity is the hallmark of Sheridan's show, "The Bold and the Black". These six paintings are as alike as they are different, and the title of the show underscores what they most have in common. They are bold, and they are black (and white and gray, but mostly black shapes and marks on a white surface). Most of them present a single image in bold strokes of the brush, but within these simple images are a variety of shapes and marks; and many of them refer to or resonate with forms seen in nature.

"After the Storm" pictures a line of five black balls in the deepest, darkest solid black. They are side-by-side with the most delicate of asymmetrical balance: three in a line, a slight space, and then a fourth, with a fifth on top balanced between numbers two and three, and in the space an outline drawing of an apple. This is a Zen-like painting. It is so calming I want to meditate while sitting in front of it.

"Dream Field with Blue" is a dense field of heavy, scratchy crisscrossed lines like barbed wire and sticks all in a tangle that form a square.  Within the square created by this jumble of marks are almost-invisible blue lines. The image is mostly flat but with layered levels that create an illusion of shallow space. There is a feeling of threat to this one.

"Before and After" pictures a single, curved, horizontal shape that makes me think of a boat, perhaps a Native American canoe. It is solid black with a thin white line that could be a seam in the boat's hull. Sticking out on top of it like a series of broom straws are strokes of a different sort. The whole thing appears to have been painted with no more than seven or eight broad strokes of a wide brush.

Like all the others, "Another Side of Darkness" is an abstract painting that calls to mind things seen in nature, in this case a night sky or an explosion of galaxies. This astral field is painted on a white background with tiny gold flecks.

These are four of the six paintings in the show. I will leave the other two to the reader's imagination and hope you will go see them for yourself.

Also showing with Sheridan is "Spectral," a mixed-media installation by Elise Richman (reviewed in this column last week), and original ceramics by Melissa Balch.

"The Bold and the Black" by Selinda Sheridan, Saturdays noon to 6 p.m., by chance and by appointment through Oct. 1; for appointment call Lisa Kinoshita 253.961.5220, Matter, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.879.3701, mattertacoma.com

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