Elizabeth O'Reilly: Presence, Absence & Light

Elizabeth O'Reilly, Black House and Shadow, oil on panel, 11 x 19 inches, 2012 (
Elizabeth O'Reilly, Black House and Shadow, oil on panel, 11 x 19 inches, 2012 (courtesy of George Billis Gallery)

Peter Malone reviews an exhibition of paintings by Elizabeth O’Reilly at George Billis Gallery, New York, on view through November 16, 2013.

Malone writes that "O’Reilly is once again applying unbound oil color to ground, guiding her brush with just the right viscosity to imply in a single stroke the effects of texture, shadow and form on surfaces as simple as distant tree tops and as complex as the rude and weathered clapboarding of a seventeenth century farm house. This latest exhibition consists of several groups of paintings, including a series of pictures completed on the grounds of St. Mary’s City, a restored colonial settlement forty miles south of Annapolis, Maryland. O’Reilly concentrates here on the dark, somber silhouettes of relic farmhouses that seem to trap the brilliant Chesapeake sunlight in triangular black holes. So effective is the contrast between their mysterious gloom and the brilliant hues of the surrounding environment that one is tempted to make more of the gothic context than the paintings actually address. Designed centuries ago to shelter the inhabitants from what was then the mortal hazards of weather and landscape—precisely the elements that frame those same buildings today in bucolic stillness—O’Reilly bends her focus away from a conceptual presentation of the site’s historical circumstance and trains it on the stillness that remains."