Lost Dog, oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
Role Model, oil on canvas, 34" x 40
"Lost Dog, oil on canvas, 36" x 48" Daniel Mosner's paintings do not lend themselves to simple descriptors about subject or style. Certainly he is a figure painter par excellence. But the figures in his work are usually set in a context of equally well rendered objects, interiors or landscapes. Similarly, we might call his style "representational" or "naturalistic" in its careful modeling in space and its detailed rendering. But the representational elements of his work often occur alongside flattened forms or passages of pure abstraction. What we can definitely say of Mosner's work is that his technical mastery liberates the artist to pursue stylistically eclectic and often daring compositional strategies. We always sense that, for this artist, the painting begins with the idea, concept, or 'meaning' to be communicated and proceeds through technical decisions regarding the most effective means of communicating it.
The painting "Role Model" illustrates the rich complexity of Mosner's method. Here the artist has chosen as his vehicle one of art history's more hackneyed subjects: clowns. In the center of the composition we see a beautifully rendered child-clown looking upward at a somewhat disheveled older clown. The "falling away" perspective on the adult clown, however, gives the figure tremendous monumentality and makes us realize that we are seeing the figure through the eyes of the child. The background of well rendered but rather ghostly figures conform to no single perspective. They seem to float in ambiguous and overlapping spaces, and the fact that they are spectators at a circus is implied by the shadow of the tent that bisects the painting.
Most fascinating, though, is the fact that parts of the composition dissolve into pure abstraction of light and color. The artist has not merely portrayed a child's memory of an event but has captured the nature of memory itself: of vague images swimming in no fixed space and dissolving into a mere aura of light and color.
In "Role Model" the artist communicates his "message" through a variety of technical means, including shifting perspectives, suggestive forms, and contrast between different degrees of visual definition. In "Lost Dog" and "Sun's Up, Fire's Out," the meaning seems to reside in the dramatic ambiguity of the scene itself. We delve into the painting to try and understand "what's going on here." "Terre Terror," as the title seems to suggest, juxtaposes two landscape images. The foreground gives us a shallow brook rippling over stones, while the background presents us a seemingly flat, arid plain. The central figure, however, seems to exist simultaneously in both landscapes. And in "Conundrum" finally, the viewer confronts a tangle of symbolic images, like the tangle of human limbs and the tree limbs in the foreground, some rendered in a naturalistic manner and some in a flat, surreal manner. As in all of Mosner's paintings, we may scratch our heads in attempt to grasp the multiple levels of meaning in his work, but we marvel at the multiplicity of technical means he has at his disposal to create them.
Terre Terror, oil on canvas, 40" x 30"
Sun's Up, Fire's Out, oil on canvas, 36" x 48"
Canyon Conundrum, oil on canvas, 60" x 40"
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