Gallery 5800 is exhibiting 12 oil pastel and conté drawings and paintings by Virginia artist Ann Lyne through Oct. 17. This group of works is a collaborative project with the Richmond Symphony, organized to herald its new season with sales of the paintings and drawings to benefit its programming. Because of her lyrical style and a precedent she had established with another orchestra, Lyne was invited to develop a commemorative series on the venerable organization and its musicians.
Lyne's work articulates the orchestrated movements of the musicians, responding visually to the composite effect of the instruments and the passionate delirium of the score. Lyne's theme is music making and her approach is impressionistic and layered, airy and evanescent. The symphonic effect of many individual sounds contributing to the complex, scrupulously laminated whole is an association that has imprinted itself onto many of her works. With the musicians abridged from portraiture to anonymous silhouetted shapes of color, or line drawings, they fall by rows into limelight and shadow. The composition of their music has become their being, with the yellow staccato of the violins or tranquil purple ripple of the harp establishing their theater.
Some of Lyne's pastels have a more painterly quality than others, and these achieve the greatest effect. Offering a wider range of light value, they are comparatively the richest and more resonant works, generally appearing to be the most enchanted by the subject matter. Meanwhile, a couple of the other pastels strike me as much too hasty and disengaged, as though they were studies pulled out of the sketchpad prematurely and sent off to be matted and framed with an optimism that would suffice for closure. Not specifically designated as a study, "Mark Russell Smith and Esther Heiderman" is one such work. It's interesting to contemplate the virtues and pitfalls of indulgent spontaneity in a work like this one because it is a widely held misconception that abstraction is an effortless undertaking. Directly across the room, however, is a fine version of the same theme, "The Conductor, the Soprano and the Symphony." It too is abstracted and impressionistic, instantaneous in the customary manner of music. Designed to portray the dynamic between the performers, it imparts a much fuller sense of the artist's attention and skill in drafting a dynamic and describing a relationship between deeply corresponding things.
Making music is a consuming, focused effort, so I'm inclined toward a prejudice that any art that describes it ought to reveal the same intensity of matured experience in equal parts as an inner possession and an outward offering. Like "Percussion," another finely developed image, those works that convey a penetrating multisensory involvement most succeed with their theme.