When abstract painting first emerged as an art form during the first half of the 20th century there was understandable public skepticism about the value of such work. This response continues to persist today; paintings that don’t depict any particular subject can often be met with a dismissive wave or some variation of “I could do that,”.
Regardless of how we might feel about it, we must acknowledge that abstract painting is an established form of art. By the 1960s it had moved the center of the art world from Europe to the United States. In the view of many cultural institutions, abstract art is our country’s greatest contribution to painting.
Today we are left with the difficult task of deciding what is “good” or “not good” abstract painting. A seemingly impossible and paradoxical assignment, and yet, due to necessity, we are becoming better at it. The conversation has shifted from “why that painting?” to “what about that painting?”.
Mary Ashwood’s abstract paintings are good.
They command a presence. Their color is well balanced. When you look at these paintings, you can feel the energy of the artist.
When asked to explain the title for her show After Image, Mary responded:
It has a dual definition for me. It is referring to the actual visual elements in my paintings that persist long after they're before my eyes. The overlaid, polychromatic rectangles reverberate and pop back and forth in space until they, eventually, linger on in everything that I see.
Its other meaning emerges in my working process. For me, the painting doesn't start until it's finished. Once I have the whole image, I feel it is the beginning of the painting.