On May 17th, Craig Krull Gallery will open its sixth exhibition of paintings by Astrid Preston. Over the years, her work has addressed our dual relationship with nature, both the wild, which has been in our evolutionary blood for thousands of years, and the cultivated, which represents our desire for order and control. Recognizing this, Robert L. Pincus wrote that, for Preston, “the depicted scene is a territory of ideas.” In fact, her almost surreal interpretations of hedges and mazes epitomize the concept that all landscapes are mental constructs.
In her recent paintings however, Preston takes a sharp look at her very real, immediate surroundings. The new works reflect an almost obsessive observation of the eugenia, ficus, and oleander that not only surround her home, but are the ubiquitous, and literally “unseen,” elements in the hedges and property borders all across Southern California. Preston fills her canvases from edge to edge with a seemingly endless wall of shrubs. Her detailed depiction of thousands of small leaves is a result of her contemplation of and meditation upon the natural repetitions in nature. The resulting visual complexity is quieting in its rhythms. She employs what may be termed a photo-realist approach, but to abstract ends. In fact, in her new paintings, plant forms in the brightest of light go completely white as they would if they were exposed on film. In some cases, she creates silhouettes of entire patches of leaves, allowing them to remain in their earth-toned wash of underpaint. The most recent work in the exhibition is a six-canvas grid titled, “Eugenia’s Dance.” In this painting, Preston combines the naturalistic depiction of leaves, the “blown-out” photographic white leaves, and the raw unpainted leaves in an intricate patchwork of abstraction.