‘Shadow and Light’ showcases impressionistic approach to printmaking

When I saw Pat Brokaw’s prints in her show “Whispers of Shadow and Light” at Componere Gallery, I was immediately fascinated, not only because of the beautiful colors and compositions but also because the pieces have a wonderful Impressionistic sensibility.

All of them are lino block color reduction prints. In order to create these, the artist first draws the image onto the surface of a linoleum block print, and then inks the areas with the lightest color first. After the artist prints the inked area, she carves away the areas of the block that printed that color. Then she inks the areas with slightly darker colors, prints those areas, carves them away, and so on. Brokaw must carefully line up each area of color with different colors next to it. She explains, “The resulting carved surface is lower than the remaining flat surface and will not print again, thus the term ‘reduction’ printing.”

One of my favorite pieces is “Chianti Hills”, a horizontal print which mirrors the landscape it depicts. Stucco houses, pinkish-purple in the light, sit high on a hill among tall cypress trees and the rolling hills of Tuscany. The outlines of trees and houses are blurry and indistinct, and the pale colors give an impression of the time of day (late evening or early morning), implying that the light will soon change. The colors are muted – there are lots of greens for the grass and trees, with yellows as highlights.

“Road to Chaumette,” another peaceful landscape, depicts a gray house on a hill surrounded on two sides by trees in the background. A white fence runs along the bottom of the long sloping lawn in front of the house. A silver sliver of water appears at the lower right. There are lots of greens for the foliage with yellow highlights and dark green shadows.

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Brokaw’s technique looks like a combination of painting and printmaking. The edges of the different colors don’t always line up, which adds to the Impressionistic sense of the pieces. They almost seem hand-painted.

“Whispers of Shadow and Light” runs through May 30. Componere Gallery is located at 6509 Delmar Blvd. in the Loop. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. For more information, call 314-721-1181 or visit www.componere.com.