When I came across the work of Pennsylvania painter Robert Heilman at the F.A.N. Gallery here in Philadelphia today, I was initially captivated by his direct, painterly approach, deft use of light and controlled color.
It was on further looking through the show that I began to notice some fascinating patterns in Heilman’s work. One is that he creates compositions that fly in the face of the usual conventions of composition — and pulls it off quite nicely.
He often defies the rule of thirds, placing significant objects in the composition almost on center, or in between thirds and centers. He plays with breaking the composition into squares, and frequently places tall vertical objects, most often utility poles, overtly in the foreground of his paintings, further dividing the canvas. He handles all of this defiance of the ordinary with aplomb, and the resulting compositions are fascinating.
Also fascinating is his interpretation of nighttime scenes. with glows of street lamps creating geometric patterns of light and dark that often recede in multiple planes. Combining both his fascination with light and dark and his penchant for defying the standard compositional rules are his paintings in which courses of dark and light recede like recursive frames, at times often almost dead on center in the composition.
All of this playfulness is within the context of small canvasses, in images of small town streets, alleys and corners.
Heilman apparently does not have a dedicated website or blog, but the F.A.N. gallery has a selection of his work on their website. There is also an article, A few words with Robert Heilman, on the F.A.N. Arts Blog
Unfortunately, I’m late in telling those in the Philadelphia area about the show, though you still have two days to catch it. Robert Heilman: Recent Paintings is on display until this Saturday, September 29.