Irene Neal


Irene Neal

Irene Neal “Masquerade” 1990, 66″ x 29″

Irene Neal works in the tradition of large size, free form abstraction, originating with Jackson Pollock, the Abstract Expressionists, and the Color Field Painters. The art work is the record of a spontaneous performance. She reinterprets this tradition by means of new, state-of-the-art, acrylic paints, which have undergone an extraordinary development in recent years. Neal aspires to the brilliant accident, the miraculously frozen moment in the flow of paint. She pours and otherwise applies paint to a canvas which has been spread out on the floor. She has said that, “The most important things are the paint and the color, what color does when it shapes itself”. She crops out the final picture last, according to the paint and color movement rather than accepting a predetermined, geometric form like a rectangle.

Working experimentally with the new materials, Neal has had to improvise her own ways of organizing herself to paint; mixing and applying colors so as to keep them clear and vibrant, etc. When first applied, acrylic gels, unlike oils, are a milky white, so it is difficult to envision the final colors and their relationships. As the curator, Sue Scott, has pointed out, it takes lots of experimentation, and a vivid, visual imagination and memory to paint sophisticated paintings, like Neal’s; with acyclic gel. Her control and virtuosity are astonishing. Her paintings are spontaneous, fresh, and completely unexpected. Never mind that after the paint is dry, she often inpaints with a brush, or collages on dried pieces of acrylic paint to get other colors and textures, all the better to achieve this free, yet “just right” quality.

Neal might be called a “process painter”, like Pollock in his “drip” phase, and Louis, who gives the self over to the medium and chance, letting matter reveal spirit. But unlike them, she is not at all a “series painter” nor does her work tend toward the impersonal and sublime. Rather each of her pictures have great individual character, humor, and playfulness, with each picture telling its own particular story. She creates her own synergy between free form and figuration. As a whole, the picture often suggests human figures, animals, birds, planes, cards, jewelry or reads like a narrative scene. Completely unintended, these readings confirm the work as a miracle, a perfect accident redolent with meaning.

Character is the opposite of style. Van Gogh has character, Cézanne has style (indeed, next to Van Gogh, Cézanne can almost be called a stylist). Character is the highest expression of all lyrical art, the aim of which is not beauty per se but “truth” in the sense of direct, authentic feeling. And the more authentic, the more free.

Neal does wonderful miniature paintings which she makes into jewelry: art to wear. Also, she has done many splendid works on paper, using a traditional rectangular format. Recently she has made some remarkable and very original paintings using clear plexiglass as a support. This makes for a materially unified, all plastic art object; and their painted areas seem to be suspended in thin air. Whether on canvas, paper or plexiglass, Neal shows herself to be a master painter.

Irene Neal

Irene Neal “River’s Gold” 2003, 19″ x 27″ x 60″


 “Jazzy”, 2012, 65″ x 22″


“Amazonia”, 2011, 22″ x 28″


“Bedtime Fish Stories”, 2013, 28″ x 22″


“Gary The Grouper”, 2013, 36″ x 30″