TIM McFARLANE at Bridgette Mayer

Tim McFarlane, A Promise Kept, 2009, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on panel

Tim McFarlane, This Moment (Detail), site specific, mixed media on wall

In its last week is a show of recent paintings by Tim McFarlane at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia - closing on April 25. Consisting of a group of small panel paintings and a few larger works on paper, the show is perfectly scaled for the gallery space, and presents a great variety of Tim's trademark knitted gestural fields in dynamic and colorful compositions. In most of the paintings, the knitted field takes on the presence of a discrete organic shape which is held in a kind of suspended animation by the edges of the panel. Sometimes two or more fields overlap or form layers of repetitive weaving marks, with drips and wet-into-wet viscosity asserting the physicality of the surfaces. The most recent pieces tend to be the most stark and direct, often using the unpainted wood grain of the panel as the ground. In these works, Tim seems to be relinquishing some of the lushness of previous work in favor of a more straight ahead focus on process -- more interest in the larger relation between the knitted field and the ground rather than in effects of color nuances. Going a step further, the most recent thing in the show is an ongoing site-specific piece which the artist worked on throughout the duration of the exhibition. In a small but unique closet space, about 6 ft square with about a 10 ft vaulted ceiling, he has engaged in a daily process of revision and elaboration that has transformed the little space into a site of intense obsessive intervention. Beginning with slate black walls and ceiling, every inch of surface in this room has been inscribed with marks using chalk, dry pigments, and white paint -- each day's work being overlayed by the next, with no specific endgame, just total commitment to the spontaneity of the process. The result is a fascinating expansion of McFarlane's practice beyond the containment of the rectangle -- a work in which his repetitions feed on themselves and multiply, ignoring edges, engulfing and surrounding, as though we've literally entered the artist's head.