Diane Arbus as unsettling muse
Like many artists, Ruth Franklin uses other art to jump-start her own. For the paintings and charcoals in her lovely exhibition at Shawn Vinson Gallery (including the works above), she started with family snapshots, old master paintings and, most frequently and potently, the photos of Diane Arbus.
It's hard to know whether familiarity with the Arbus oeuvre affects how one reads these paintings. It seems that some of the individual subjects' oddness remains, especially in the awkward gestures of the mental institution patients. The tension between the tone and the juicy paint makes for interesting viewing. Through Nov. 29. 119 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-370-1720by Ed McCormack Editor-in-Chief, Artspeak - New York City, 1998
In the most recent pastels of Ruth Franklin we see a considerable broadening in scope on the part of this gifted artist from Kent, England, who, since 1994, has lived and worked in Atlanta, Georgia. Her glowing palette has grown more subtle in its hues, her use of chiaroscuro has become more dramatically pronounced, and her subject matter has taken on an even deeper suggestiveness.
Those familiar with her work since her first U.S. solo show at Gallery 71, New York City, in 1996, should be delighted by Franklin’s continued mastery of interior scenes wherein warm burnished tones evoke a sense of domestic serenity recalling the nineteenth century poet Royall Tyler’s famous lines "Why should our thoughts to distant countries roam / When each refinement may be found at home?"
Even while evoking genteel comforts, with their glowing floor-lamps and overstuffed furniture, however, Franklin’s most recent interiors are so boldly composed that one can appreciate them for their formal qualities, as one would a powerful abstraction.
Also quite remarkable are a new group of suburban landscapes in which the artist creates virtual magic through her heightened use of light and shadow, evoking a mood that, while rooted in the commonplace, verges on the surreal. Indeed, one discovers heretofore unknown affinities between Ruth Franklin and Giorgio de Chirico in the haunted quality she brings to unpeopled street scenes of a dream-like allusiveness. There is, at the same time, an almost noir quality to some of Franklin’s latest suburban street scenes, with their affluently aloof houses, darkly shadow-dappled lawns, and their shuttered small town store-fronts. Mysteries seem to lurk behind their masked facades; their atmospheres suggest all the dramatic resonance of sites described in the crime novels of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
But it is as a creator of forms and a colorist, rather than a storyteller, that Franklin finally excels. Her palette is dominated by glowing ochers, ambers as clear as beer, and other golden hues, each with its own unique tonal qualities. These are complemented by deep reds, vibrant blues, and a subtle range of earth colors that contribute to the special warmth that emanates from her compositions. Indeed, Franklin’s pictures are so richly accomplished that they can be favorably compared to a diverse range of past masters, from Chardin to Georges Rouault. However, her images are ultimately unique and distinguished by the inimitable stylistic stamp of her own sure hand.
In these, her most recent and most evocative pastels to date, Ruth Franklin, whose work is in many important private and corporate collections the world over, continues to explore and expand upon the themes that have gained her a growing following. She is an important contemporary artist with a unique vision.
Ruth Franklin was born in Kent, England, in 1964, and was raised on the country’s east coast in Suffolk. She was accepted into the Brighton Art School in 1983, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree.