Visual Arts

Arlene Finger: Still Primitive After All These Years

“Houses,” pastel, charcoal, chalk on paper, 29 x 36, 2016

Having been drawing since she could hold a pencil, Arlene Finger finds that as she progresses with her craft she continues to become primitive. An active decision in sharpening her drawing skills, not into representation of the figure, or the landscape, but in how she can capture the raw feeling in the simplicity of shape and color, a feat that tends to be more difficult when the rhetoric of reality is removed.

It is a passion for rendering in a stripped down way, a primal way, which Arlene raises to the surface to remove technical flourish and technique to let the drawing become what the image reflects in her eye. Influenced by the likes of Philip Pearlstein, she learned to go right at, and be honest with, the subject matter, to create a drawing or painting in a way that lets the artist move the lines and angles to capture, not necessarily the object, but the spirit of the object, not the image, but how the image moves the viewer. Finger, with her wonderful ability, finds ways to bring about the whole of an image by scratching out the place in the eye where it is birthed, where the simplest pieces come together to form what it is that it is.

Finger brings a modern sensibility to her oeuvre, relinquishing religiosity and sentimentality. This approach allows the viewer to receive the simplicity of the character and essence of her subjects. One such example is a recent work titled Mother and Child in which there are hints of Picasso and Matisse, summoned to the 21st century.

Finger is a story teller; each work is a unique portal into her larger-than-life narrative. She integrates representation and abstraction in which her pictures speak to the viewer directly about the physical world while also communicating underlying messages. This is accomplished as a result of her pictorial simplicity which, like a visual Haiku, gets to the essence without extra flourishes.

In Houses, her muted colors and basic shapes do not grab the viewer but massage the eye with a rich simplicity portrayed with impressionist shapes of a neighborhood with trees, houses and pathways, conveying an uncomplicated way of seeing the trueness of what is there without dazzle or distraction.

“Still Life With Teapot,” pastel on paper, 24 x 36, 2020

In Finger’s multi-perspective way of looking at something, we simultaneously see an engaging pictorial representation of a familiar subject while also seeing mesmerizing colors reflecting the inner narrative. Immediately we are invited to engage in an internal dialogue between the inner and outer nature of reality.

In her work Angel on a Swing, Finger enters a dimension in which the physical and material converge. Misty cloud-like forms surround a young child Angel on a rope swing attached to a tree. The vibrancy of an ethereal atmosphere combined with the physical representation of leaves, a stream and white bird in flight bring both worlds together. The child is looking directly at the viewer with an all-knowing expression as if to tell an inner story that can only be understood by the viewer.

“Angel on a Swing,” medium-acrylic and gouache on canvas board, 18 x 24, 2012

Still working, after all these years, on a near daily basis, Arlene Finger brings forth works that she exhibits at venues such as Viridian where she has shown since 2007, Van Der Plas gallery on the Lower East Side, and with BWAC, the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, just to name a few of the galleries and shows where her work has been on view, captivating a growing audience embracing the simplest representation of the uncooked style plainly laid out on the table. Primitive does not evoke all of what Arlene Finger brings to the viewer from her drawings and paintings. A New York native girl who has unfolded, in her work, a lifetime of understanding, of experience, of watching and observing the world, who had traveled the greater United States and found her way back home to grow her art in the figures she portrays and the wonder of the ways of the lines of the buildings and city that have inspired her, through all these years, to illustrate what is, most times, too difficult to say. G&S

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