The Snowy Night
Seasons are a curious gauge of time. They are not easily bound by clocks or calendars. They are a deeply human measure. To fully appreciate them requires experience, a life lived. Think of how very young children only understand time in minutes or school children in hours and days. As young adults we begin to experience time in longer terms, months and years. It is only as we mature we reflect upon time in decades. Seasons become a measure of tasks completed, roads traveled, and stumbles endured - all accentuated by light and the elements.
Within the Four Seasons exhibition, Martin Rollins’ explores this as a visual allegory in subject matter both familiar and fresh in his artwork; the urban landscape of Louisville. They are pictures of spring, summer, fall and winter. But they don’t fall prey to visual tropes often used to signify these distinctive times of the year. Instead, we are offered images of recognizable places subtly rendered through light, color and form that serve as a meditation on time and place, refined through the artist’s lifelong love affair with the architecture and landscape of Louisville.
These paintings exhibit the masterful mark making and sense of color which are hallmarks of Rollins’ work. The final execution comes from years of study, practice and honing of style – an artistic life lived. This ease of process and prolific output afford him an opportunity to explore the nuances of time and change and, in this case, the four seasons. As he pursues this, Rollins is like Monet with his series of haystacks or Rembrandt and his self-portraits.
Once in October
In light of this theme, it would be easy to read the work as a mature artist reflecting upon his own mortality; perhaps, a nostalgic look back. It is a fair assumption with valid points, for these paintings are the output of a life built upon careful observation and training. But Rollins is pursuing something rather elusive. He is attempting to capture the passage of time. How do you identify the exact time of a change in seasons? There is no announcement or identifiable action. It is like particle science; it exists but it is hard to see. As difficult as the task may be, Rollins has found the means through a slight tweak of color, a change in shadow, or a variance in form to capture the fleeting vestiges of these transitions and, thus, bear witness to time’s progress.
There may be no more poetic example for the passage of time than the advance of the seasons. It is a universal reminder of life’s cyclical nature and a reflection on our own impermanence. In that regard Rollins succeeds, but these paintings also serve another purpose. They are a visual marker of a place and time in our community; not as nostalgia but as evidence of what we may lose in a world struggling with dramatic shifts in politics and climate change. As concerns over the environment and civic cohesion continue to grow, Rollins is engaging in an act of quiet advocacy through paint and oil pastel, reminding us that a better pathway exists.
Written by Bryan Warren and photography by Kenneth Hayden