Julian Hatton: Free Range
Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York
April 20 – June 3, 2017
After viewing Julian Hatton’s new paintings (at Elizabeth Harris Gallery through June 3), it is not surprising to learn that he painted plein-air for many years. Although they are resolutely abstract, the paintings deliver the full, immersive effect of the landscape. As a viewer it is clear that Hatton is intimately familiar with the sources of these paintings; their origins are specific.
How often does a group of contemporary, gestural abstract paintings bring to mind the word specific? Almost never. Specificity, however, is the reason that, in a show featuring some forty paintings, Hatton never seems to repeat himself. A form or gesture may appear in one painting and reappear in another, but it never does so in quite the same way. Each is seen and then seen again, each time through particular light and air. Hatton is equally precise in the realization of space. Each space Hatton paints feels oriented to a specific vantage point. As a result, these paintings feel truly spatially navigable, something that hardly ever occurs convincingly in an abstract painting.
Happily, Hatton’s attention to specifics doesn’t preclude improvisation, nor does he ignore the pursuit of each painting’s unique internal logic. His visual language, though clearly imprinted by the landscape is not ruled by it — imagination runs free. Indeed, the exhibition, titled Free Range, truly conveys the feeling of wandering. Wandering also becomes an active metaphor for the openness and freedom required for expression in painting.