About The Tree of Life, Nine Paintings by Harlan Sadberry


The evolution of Harlan Sadberry's work stands in marked contrast to dominant postmodern movements.  Throughout his career he has created images distinguished by immediacy, simplicity, and directness--images that seek neigher to create a narrative nor to deconstruct one.

His latest work is a series of nine large paintings entitled The Tree of Life, that delve into a dynamic between image construction and expressionist fire.1-9  These paintings, preceded by a set of drawings, take signature elements of sensuality, vitality and color, and introduce a rigorous geometrical precision as a container. 

Sadberry has pulled together highly divergent influences--automatist and constructivist--within an essentially expressionist sensibility.  His brushstrokes are repetitive and deliberate, yet highly energetically charged.  He has rotated his canvases systematically as he paints in order to facilitate the construction of an integrated whole.

The tension between energetic expression and a controlled harmony is also present in his use of color.  Liberal use of pinks invites the viewer to drop any culturally-conditioned response to these emotionally-evocative hues and relate to them directly.  At the same time they are balanaced by their complements and/or grounded in the plane of the canvas by the use of a sort of shadow layer of white (as seen especially in the third,3 fourth,4 and ninth9 paintings in the series).  

Paintings one1 and nine9 are transitional pieces that move the series into and out of an experimental zone.  Brushstrokes are larger and looser in these works.  The intervening pieces introduce more structure, and play with a more intense energy.  The seventh painting7 represents a peak of this intensity, having the most saturated and vivid color and the most detailed and complex form.
 
Copyright 2010 Elizabeth Montgomery.  By permission.


1 The Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
2 The Second Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
3 The Third Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
4 The Fourth Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
5 The Fifth Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
6 The Sixth Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
7 The Seventh Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
8 The Eighth Tree of Life, 2008, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.
9 The Ninth Tree of Life, 2009, acrylic paint on canvas, h56 x w64in./h142.2 x w162.5cm.