The Trance in the Studio

The vastness and nuance and intelligent, rough beauty of John Dubrow’s paintings, the rhythmic turmoil which roils their cakes of paint, tempts one to conceive of them as natural wonders. How are such things made? These works sometimes put me in mind of the forces of nature that combine to create hurricanes and mountain ranges. In the deep geography of Dubrow’s works there seems to be no mediation, no polish, no editorial mercy to bridge, for the viewer’s sake, between what Dubrow was moved to make and what Dubrow meant by it. The painter’s long toil — these works require years to complete — is rewarded with an extraordinary immediacy. He does not translate for our sake. We meet him entirely on his ground. I thought all this before I had ever stood before a proper Dubrow painting. I had seen small oil sketches, the free power of which foreshadowed the force of the full-scale versions. Dubrow’s paintings are enormous, not only in height and width but also in the sculptural thickness of their surfaces and in the demands that they make. A topography of calcified oil rises and falls from one edge of each surface to the other. Seen from the side, uneven protrusions testify to the force of the painter’s impact. The surfaces are like the beaten ground of a paddock in which a wild horse has been penned. The man who made these paintings must have exerted prodigious energy to whip and slice and scratch all this paint so that it seethes the way it does. The edges of Dubrow’s surfaces are never straight because the paint rises and cakes over them, the corners are rounded, there are no clean angles. Like any inch of the natural world, Dubrow’s paintings are not neat. And yet they contain

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