A Painter’s Search: A Review of Laurel Sucsy’s “Finding the Edge”

"Untitled", oil on linen. Photo courtesy of Olivia Palmer.
“Not Two Loves”, 2017, 24″x 22″, oil on linen. Photo courtesy of Olivia Palmer.



By Clay Palmer



From October 17th, 2018 to January 5th, 2019, Laurel Sucsy’s exhibition Finding the Edge has been on display in the Mallory/Wurtzburger Galleries at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee. The abstract paintings and photographs in this exhibition explore the principles of compositional tension, color, and surface, as well as how the orientation of these elements manipulate and direct the viewer’s eye. The result is a body of work that creates an awareness of the parameters of the two-dimensional plane and how elements of a surface can interact with said limits.



The best of the works in Finding the Edge do more than simply create an awareness of the boundaries of their linen surfaces. Many of the paintings destabilize their edges with forms that approach the fringe of the work, such as I Am Goodbye. This painting, with its large field of yellow ochre that covers the bottom three-fourths of the canvas and blue-gray field that covers the top fourth, contains a loosely gridded, iceberg-like structure that is centered on the edge of the two fields mentioned. This structure crests up to a point built out of scarlet and gray-violet paint that barely caresses the top edge of the stretched linen. This point creates a sense of direction and asymmetrical weight that shifts toward the top of the canvas and establishes a jagged, energetic negative space surrounding the mass of color.



The subjects of the series of monochromatic photographs present in the show are painterly and highly textured. However, the flattening of the subjects through the printing process leaves the viewer desiring to be in the presence of the subjects themselves. These collages contain subtle shifts in value temperature (such as the warm white that nears an ever-so-slight tint of pink in the center of Muldoon 6), which, when paired with the actual presence of physical texture that Sucsy already gravitates toward in her painting practice, could potentially produce another layer of complexity to her work.



Sucsy’s strengths lie in the surprising, gutsy decisions that are littered throughout the heavily worked surfaces of her pieces. No Two Loves is composed largely with the same grid-like, overlapping passages of paint that serve as the foundation for many of the paintings in the exhibition. However, the administering of a bright pink lattice structure that cuts diagonally across a small section towards the bottom center of the painting is a welcome point of interest: a beautifully nuanced relationship between marks that exist both under and over the sprayed color.



“Untitled”, oil on linen. Photo courtesy of Olivia Palmer.



The strongest of the work in this exhibition is present within the large work Untitled, which contains a large, rectangular structure built out of quick, frenetic marks of various shades of grey, soft pink, and yellow green across a pale-yellow background. This painting has some of the slightest contrast in the larger works and demonstrates the artist’s precise control over color and mark making. The result is a self-contained entity of soft visual static that hums and elevates itself from its background, and whose marks feel both simultaneously consistent and chaotic, working for and against structure.



Finding the Edge is an excellent example of the search for what painting is essentially all about:  finding the correct combination of marks. For Laurel Sucsy, the strongest points of this search lie in the bold, unapologetic usage of shapes that confront the edges of the picture plane, brushwork that challenges the notion of what a beautiful or appealing mark is, and color that subtly shifts from amplified to tonally rich. Regardless of the size of these paintings, all of Sucsy’s works hold equal attention to their surfaces, never compromising their use of texture, color, or composition.



Clay Palmer is an MFA candidate in Painting at the University of Memphis. He received his BFA from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2017.