NONE INTRUDE; RECENT WORKS BY JILL TISHMAN
I always perceive human qualities in nature,” Jill Tishman
has said. On
first encounter with her arresting, large-scaled landscapes, this
what many observers might intuit. And both Tishman and the truly
viewer of her works are, in turn, reverberating to the intuitions
of countless artists in the long history of Romanticism,
from the early nineteenth
century, right down to the present.
Tishman’s ethereal drawings strive, over and over, to dematerialize
of nature so as to reveal not just its actual appearance but, much
powerfully, to reveal the artist’s own spiritual accord with
her subject. To
give tangible shape to what the artist sees within has been a cardinal
component of the evolution of modern art, both abstract and representational.
That landscape painting has survived at all, in our post-, post-modern
is testimony to our imperishable need to commune with the spiritual.
history of abstraction in modern art can actually be seen as an
with many artists’ attempts to escape from the material world
mysterious gulf between “being and nothingness”---and
return with an image
of what they saw there.
Jill Tishman’s haunting, black and white “fragments
of nature, as seen
through a temperament” (one well-known description of classic
are authoritative, modern efforts to make a “religious” experience
in completely contemporary terms. Tishman’s long, lonely
vistas create a
symbolic contrast between the immediate foreground---upon which
we and the
painter stand, in solitude....and a receding, immaterial realm,
It is remarkable that Tishman’s mesmerizing landscapes, though
containing people, nevertheless reverberate with humanity. Effectively,
artist seems to take the viewer by the hand, and we view the snowy
misty lane or the foggy forest as though standing in silence at
While the overwhelming mood of Tishman’s work is a profound
melancholy, it is
never disturbing. In fact, a melancholic strain in art stretches
Germany’s Caspar David Friedrich to England’s Joseph
M.W. Turner, right down
through Rothko and Pollock, to the mystical allees and solitary
depicted by Tishman.
Tishman can and does work in color very well, yet it is in her
white, that is, “chiaroscuro” work, that she seems
most able to push her
vision beyond the literal towards the lyric. Of course, it is very
that drawing has always been the medium which most powerfully captures
instant of artistic inspiration; this is undoubtedly why Jill Tishman
constantly drawn back to that most basic of mediums.
In Tishman’s images, line, the oldest element in the whole
history of art,
completely determines her form; moreover, continual drawing invites
serial compositions, cycles of similar images which continually
tantalizing changes on her motif. What the artist strives to capture
landscapes”, per se, but “inscapes”---a fanciful
term coined by Rainer
Maria Rilke which, in truth, might describe much of modern art.
What is particularly attractive in her dreamy landscapes is that,
in the end,
they are not accurate images of a specific place and time but rather
distillation of pure atmosphere. Tishman’s drawing so isolates
matter that fantasy itself creates her pictorial space.
At times, the tall, narrow vistas Tishman favors---inviting, like
portals---verge on the Surreal. And we might then recall that the
Surrealists, themselves, were vastly taken with the possibilities
photography, the ultimate black-and-white medium, to capture the
of melancholy in the everyday environment.
Both the Surrealists and Tishman, in turn, owe something to the
photos of Eugene Atget, whose images of empty, turn of the century
byways and hazy, lonely allees suggest, but never depict, humankind.
Like Atget’s work, too, Jill Tishman’s images always
seem to be captured by
dawn’s earliest, meditative light. Like Atget, Tishman seems
to take very
long, breathless “exposures.” (Atget once said that
he could never work
with a handheld camera because they were “too fast”---”Trop
In the end, there is paradoxical comfort in Tishman’s realms
of solitude, for
she knows, as Byron said, that there can still be “society,
where none intrude.”
– Jan Ernst Adlmann
Author of the 1996 publication, Contemporary Art in New Mexico,
has been director of art museums in California, Kansas, Florida
and at Vassar
College, as well as Assistant Director of New York’s Solomon
Museum. He has taught at the University of Colorado, Vassar, the
Santa Fe and at Hamilton College.