Paint Matters 

Janet DeCover and Cindy Neuschwander push their medium at 1708.

Drastically altering her paint by adding wax to it, Neuschwander is making a dense, three-dimensional medium that is very different from oil paint. With it she builds layers, which are sometimes scraped then taped in striped sections before another layer is applied. When the tape is removed the field of color becomes patterned with a series of ribbonlike bands that weave in and out of the picture plane.

Several artists in Richmond have been inspired to use wax as a means to play the conceal/reveal painting game. What's different about Neuschwander's painting is that she is tempering her expressionistic doodles and painterly digressions with an appealing geometric logic, or at least a sense of structure that strengthens its visual integrity.

She produces enough variations to suggest she's only hit the top of the imagery iceberg. Some canvases are mostly neutral in color and the geometry is broken with subtle, rounded forms that are lightly drawn or painted and then scraped. Others are dominated by large areas of flat primary red. In one of her most dynamic canvases, called "Ambling Diligence," she substitutes stripes with enlarged figures that could be portions of bold letters. Neuschwander seems to be tapping into a source with unlimited associative potential.

In contrast to the density and weight of Neuschwander's medium, DeCover thins her paint to a point in which it runs but is still saturated with color. In this recent work she pushes the transparent qualities of her medium by rubbing it, scraping it and then reapplying it to form multiple layers of lush, gellike coats. Color just doesn't get any richer or more fluid than DeCover's does here.

Her handling of color complements her exotic and dreamy images which could pass as enlarged details of Matisse paintings. Her watery fields seem to bleed and migrate before your eyes, forming shapes that sometimes read as shadows. These fields are sprinkled with references to the natural world often painted in simplified motifs. With these floating areas of color and figures, DeCover suggests a mental landscape, if not a physical one.

Formally, each body of work counters the other's beautifully. But as individual artists, both hold their own with substantive painting their processes inspire. ,b>S

"New Work by Cindy Neuschwander and Janet DeCover" will run through Nov. 26 at 1708 Gallery, 319 W. Broad St. 643-1708.


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