South Florida artist Madeliene Abling has spent the last ten years refining the distinctive style she is known for. Her canvases are bold, contemporary, evocative and graceful, even playful. They are filled with light and iconic imagery that balances color and line perfectly. What you don’t find is any sense of hesitation or doubt. Each line looks destined to have been placed just so and each color seems to have been mixed with the precise foreknowledge of how all of it would work together. It takes an artist with Madeliene’s dedication to her craft to do all of those things and do them well.
The mark of success in creativity is often seen in the perception that a thing is memorable but simple, like a song you can’t get out of your head that upon closer inspection is far more complex in harmony and structure than it seems. Madeliene’s paintings are like that. Her images are uncomplicated in that there are only a few elements in each, for example, in some of her images, sailboats reduced to their simplest form, water portrayed to evoke the sense of water more than a photo-likeness of it and buildings on a shore represented as standing rectangles with few details to draw the eye away from the image as a whole.
But Madeliene’s work is anything but simple. Each of her paintings is a single subject, always something that brings her joy, like sailboats or vintage cars, musical instruments or cocktail related objects like martini glasses or shakers. There is little to distract from the primary image and there are never people included for that same reason. The viewer steps into an unhampered personal relationship with the painting and easily feels a connection. To get to that place with her paintings, Madeliene follows a path that is much more complex than the finished work would lead you to believe.
When working on one of her series of paintings, as soon as she feels that one is complete, she takes it down from the easel and puts up a blank one. She begins the new canvas with the remnants of the paints she used on the one just finished. She layers the pigments on until they form a built up abstract surface of color. Only then does she begin executing the next painting over that base. She sketches in her design, chooses and mixes colors. She then adds layers of opaque paints on top of the old colors to create a new background but always allows some of earlier colors to show through.
Each canvas inspires a different palette. The colors she picks may or may not mimic reality but they always allow the viewer to have a sense of being there next to the thing she has drawn. She says she has become more willing to take risks with color and go for the authenticity of the feeling they produce.
All of her paintings are now done with a palette knife. Brushes, she says, are too constricting but the palette knife automatically leads to big imagery and strong definitive marks. Her work is figurative but with an impressionistic twist.
Although Madeliene took classes and had individual instruction, she is largely self-taught. Prior to becoming a full time artist, she was a successful attorney and for a while lived on a trawler going up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
Painting, for her, is a way to be completely in the moment. It gives her a sense of well being and, she says, I am never closer to myself than at those moments. Perhaps that is what the viewer ultimately sees — a glimpse of the human heart open to the world.