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“ I always perceive human qualities in nature,” Jill Tishman has said. On
first encounter with her arresting, large-scaled landscapes, this is exactly
what many observers might intuit. And both Tishman and the truly emphatic
viewer of her works are, in turn, reverberating to the intuitions and sensations
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 the face
of nature so as to reveal not just its actual appearance but, much more
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 world,
is testimony to our imperishable need to commune with the spiritual. The
history of abstraction in modern art can actually be seen as an unbroken tie
with many artists’ attempts to escape from the material world into the
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 Impressionism)
are authoritative, modern efforts to make a “religious” experience tangible
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, somewhere
“ beyond.”

It is remarkable that Tishman’s mesmerizing landscapes, though never
containing people, nevertheless reverberate with humanity. Effectively, the
artist seems to take the viewer by the hand, and we view the snowy garden or
misty lane or the foggy forest as though standing in silence at her side.
While the overwhelming mood of Tishman’s work is a profound melancholy, it is
never disturbing. In fact, a melancholic strain in art stretches from
Germany’s Caspar David Friedrich to England’s Joseph M.W. Turner, right down
through Rothko and Pollock, to the mystical allees and solitary pathways
depicted by Tishman.

Tishman can and does work in color very well, yet it is in her black and
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 clear
that drawing has always been the medium which most powerfully captures the
instant of artistic inspiration; this is undoubtedly why Jill Tishman feels
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 her to
serial compositions, cycles of similar images which continually ring subtle,
tantalizing changes on her motif. What the artist strives to capture are not
“ 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 a
distillation of pure atmosphere. Tishman’s drawing so isolates her subject
matter that fantasy itself creates her pictorial space.

At times, the tall, narrow vistas Tishman favors---inviting, like open
portals---verge on the Surreal. And we might then recall that the
Surrealists, themselves, were vastly taken with the possibilities of
photography, the ultimate black-and-white medium, to capture the vibrations
of melancholy in the everyday environment.

Both the Surrealists and Tishman, in turn, owe something to the unforgettable
photos of Eugene Atget, whose images of empty, turn of the century Parisian
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 vite, enfin!”
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, Jan Adlmann
has been director of art museums in California, Kansas, Florida and at Vassar
College, as well as Assistant Director of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim
Museum. He has taught at the University of Colorado, Vassar, the College of
Santa Fe and at Hamilton College.



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