photo by Karen Bell

photo by Karen Bell

A painter in landscape

Last year Diane walked into an artist retreat and workshop I run with photographer, Karen Bell in northern Portugal. Our connection, two painters and a photographer, stem from the degrees we earned at different times at The Rhode Island School of Design, a preeminent art school on the east coast of the United States. One common thread RISD graduates share is the currency of energy, focus and desire to practice art.

Life can contribute or challenge implementation of currency, but the confidence in one’s visual voice, cultivated at RISD, thrives or refuses to fade. Diane was a painter at RISD, a colorist by profession with an architectural firm in Stuttgart, a mother and a woman of incredible focus. Becoming acquainted with Diane as a landscape painter, without distraction from work or family has been an extraordinary way to ‘‘see’ her.

Portugal’s landscape is as rigorous a landscape as any, with rapidly shifting light re-drawing panoramic views every few minutes. Diane is enticed by this task and equipping herself to confront the natural elements of sun, wind, hilly dry ground, irregular paths and oil paint, she becomes the central focus of awe. Using an instinctive and fine design sense, her appetite for light, a cubists’ articulation of form, and an eye for dynamics, Diane not only ‘makes a painting’, ‘paints a landscape’ or ‘studies atmosphere’, she grabs visual tools, and applies high energy asserting design over nature. Nature and landscape ignite her reactions. Her work is launched through sharp observation of fact but asks what thousands of possibilities are of color colliding with paint inside a picture plane. Similar to the posture of Lucian Freud’s self-portrait in a mirror, with palette knife in hand like a fencer meeting an opponent, Diane greets her mesmerizing landscapes. Her decisive, angular divisions become full-bodied marks pulled across surfaces, across space, becoming bigger than the picture. Her plein air paintings characteristically uphold the monumental, by using the broadest compression of natural elements that her frame can tolerate. Diane is not a gentle painter; she is a tremendous painter. In collusion with pitch-perfect drawing, her paintings share an impatient, demanding, restless energy in combat with logic, invention, and color eloquence. Diane Gorman-Sorg’s visual currency is energy, out in the field or otherwise.

Dale Emmart Co-director and Founder of Plein Air Portugal Department Head of Art, The Brearley School, NYC, NY