Capturing the character of trees
Paintings and text by Zsuzsanna Szegedi
THROUGH MY PAINTINGS, I SEARCH for new ways to move the viewer away from an eye-level perspective and into a more unconventional angle. I paint on rooftops, sitting on the ground, or extremely close to and looking up at my subjects. Up on a roof, I have to fight with wind, heat, and my fear of heights, but my view of the world opens up there—it’s a great exercise for the mind. When I sit on the ground underneath a tree, on the other hand, my subject is so close to me that I have to use my whole body in order to see it all. I am constantly looking up at the structure of the tree and down again to the canvas to make my marks with the paint. This close-up view reveals dramatic shapes and angles that I would otherwise miss.
The trees in the paintings shown here bear no leaves, fruit, or seeds. Instead, I have concentrated on their core shapes to capture the structural poetry of aging—disfigured trees as seen in their wild and individual existences.
Because I paint on location, I prefer “direct painting,” using the final colors and brushstrokes from the beginning. I paint in the late afternoon when the sun’s rays create warm highlights as well as dramatic shadows—strong contrasts that bring out the alien qualities of the familiar subject. Working closely with the setting sun, I have to paint quickly to capture the most dominant gestures and shadows. As soon as the sun is gone, my work is done.