“Views from Nature” features 25 new landscape paintings by Portland artist Roy Germon. Germon is one of the top-notch notables of the new Maine painting. His works are marked by a boldly flickered brush that generally holds tight to the surface and an appreciable sense of sophistication and visual intelligence. Using a chalky palette, Germon’s marks are less about the writhing of the bristles through the paint than about the form of the mark on the surface. In other words, Germon’s marks aren’t dollops, dabs or daubs. They are shapes.

Germon plays cool and warm tones off each other with a sense of atmosphere that not only reveals light, but the temperature of place as well. “Winter Walk,” is an 11-by-14-inch vertical panel, but it’s a giant gem that is briskly – almost lusciously – cold. It features a view along a snowy path heading into winter woods. The shadows of the snowy field, particularly in the boot-dug foot path, appear in a range of blues that go deep, far deeper than the azure sky that atmospherically lightens to teal in the lower right, revealing the temperature difference between the now-crisp snow and the lightening day.

“From the Bench II,” 24 by 48 inches. Photos courtesy of Littlefield Gallery

“Winter Walk” is not just a monument to the cold. In addition to the just-warming sky, Germon sets off his brisk palette with swatches and strokes of warm tones. These tones are mostly about color (rather than light or temperature), but they position the coolness of the piece as balanced, well-considered and perfectly executed.

Germon’s particular skill is revealed through his marks: They are bold and quick without being flashy, the stuff of well-metered poetics rather than bravado. Rhythm is the back beat of his works; stroke by stroke, it flows through each of Germon’s strongest paintings.

“Above Schoodic” is a 4-foot horizontal panel that blends a broad palette not only of ocean and sky blues but mossy greens, sunny yellows, warm ochres and brick red. These warm colors don’t appear as summer heat, but as organically autumnal. At least this is how they appear now, but I suspect they might get their coolness and hues from still-cold spring. The yellow is largely associated with low-lying flora, but looking out from a hill over the islands and forests, it acts like the trees beyond, and so we are likely to have an autumn association. The shapes of the trees and plants spark outward throughout the scene in almost explosively fire-like shapes. This dynamism also hints at spring’s outwardly expanding sense of life, and it is backed up by the jumping and jangly rhythms of the strokes throughout the lively scene.

“Winter Walk,” 14 by 11 inches.

“Grindstone Mirror” and “From the Bench” are particularly strong works that look to the water as a primary painterly feature. Germon has never struggled to paint water, but he has rarely used it as the primary feature of his works. (Generally in Germon’s works, water has appeared as a type of visual space where the pedestrian painter/viewer cannot pass.) “From the Bench” takes a beach perspective across Frenchman’s Bay past a small island toward Mount Desert Island. The main player is the water. Germon uses a range of blues lolling out in quiet horizontal cascades, but he holds the structure together with a broad white horizontal reflection. (“Form” wouldn’t be the right term; Germon typically traffics in color rather than light, but this is oddly immaterial – it’s all about light.) While his strokes find their muscularity as specific forms, this is a painting subtly led by the play of light on the water and in the clouds: Around the water reflection and the clouds are quietly liquid strokes of almost-white gray with tinges of blue or green. (One effective tactic of Maine painting is that reflections in the water often mirror the colors of the sky.)

“Presumpscot,” 24 by 24 inches.

“Grindstone Mirror” puts this tactic out front so effectively that it might be the most complete painting in the show. It’s a scene of the shore at Grindstone (near Schoodic) looking down the rocks to the water. A pine-covered and no less rocky spit of land juts out to dominate the mid-ground, marking the horizontal top of a triangle with the near-ground rising at a straight angle to the right. (The left edge is the panel’s edge, but we read it as a straight drop from the tip of the spit that reaches across the entire scene.) The far ground is just a wisp of atmospherically softened land, a point that reaches out past the spit and connects with the far-off sky. The star of the show, however, is the water, mirror-smooth in the early morning. Or, rather, it is the scene reflected on the glassy water, inverted and intense in the upper corner of the compositional triangle. Regardless of what might lead the scene for any viewer, Germon completes the piece with a quiet but powerfully brilliant gesture: To reinforce the horizontalness of the landscape and its reflections, he scraped a razor sharp line through the reflected trees from the edge of a horizontal light form on the water so that it pulls our eyes through the reflected form as a reflection of light. This is a subtle mark on the surface, but it kicks off some heavy lifting: It creates a visual grid for us that combines the vertical quality of our standing bodies with the way light reflects – always – directly toward our eye, which, by definition, is a vertical motion. This really locks the viewer – and artist – in place in paintings. But Germon clarifies this with the razor’s edge that marks the flatness of the water as the basis for our horizontal perspective: The verticality of our bodies is based on the horizontal flatness of the world, the fundamental effect of gravity on human perception and perspective.

“Views from Nature” features many strong paintings, and included among them is a surprising range of painterly orientations. The foreground of “Morse Mountain,” for example, is effective precisely because it arrives as barely touched by the brush. “On the Rocks” is set in motion by a stand of trees on the right that is more about dark volume than surface – a rarity for Germon. The bottom third of “Tidal” is an unabashedly flat and abstract vertical quilt of the rocks and grass below a scene of water and nearby islands.

Germon has long been a strong and speedily bold painter. But with “Views from Nature,” we’re seeing him take his skills and visual curiosity even farther to places where he is often in very rare company.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. Contact him at:

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