5.16.04 SARASOTA HERALD TRIBUNE
REFLECTIONS OF A PAINTER OF EARTH AND SKY
By Kevin Costello
-- Balancing a laconic, classical approach to the landscape with the
florid, chromatic traditions of mid-20th century abstraction, Jeffery
Cornwell's images are more ordered than nature, but, at the same time,
they express a love of nature's constantly changing appearance.
Cornwell's acrylic-on-canvas landscapes at Elizabeth Rice Fine Art in
Sarasota persuade the spectator that the emotional and visual
restraint of his paintings is a genuine response to nature and,
consequently, is one that the viewer can enter and accept.
The scale and degree of detail in the landforms, relative to the cloud
patterns of his paintings, make clear Cornwell's love of the dramatic
naturalism of 19th-century Romanticism reformulated for our time. His
is a reductivist mood derived from color field abstraction and
minimalism, two mid- to late-20th-century abstract styles that place
emphasis on the poetics of pure color and the beauty of pure form.
Details exist in Cornwell's painting that are discreet metaphors.
However, it is the color and formal relationship of sky to land that
is unique to his vision. At heart, he is a 19th-century pantheist in
the spirit of Bonington and Constable, an elegiac spirit expressing
himself through associations of the sky as a vehicle of
For example, a painting of a pink, violet and turquoise sunset has
only a church steeple intruding into the clouds. In another painting,
dark gray clouds threaten a distant beach shoreline at low tide.
Across the expanse of wet sand a solitary figure walks in the middle
Cornwell's reductivist approach to landscape enhances the formal
clarity of his compositions. Each section of the painting is defined
by its own particular color(s), which gives it a clear, architectonic
order that supports the image from beneath the paint.
It's an order that contrasts the physical and chromatic weight created
by setting the free-flowing cloud formations against the thin sliver
of land masses (or other land- based details) at the base of the
The extremes of proportional scale between the expanse of sky and the
ribbon of land reverses the natural order of things as experienced in
nature: Here the sky is inviting and personal, and the land is distant
and almost approachable.