Inspired by the landscape of the Maine coast, John Walker created a series of paintings characterized by highly articulated, expressive brushwork. October Low Tide, Maine, with its free and vivid brushstrokes and powerful abstract composition, constitutes a new direction for the artist, one that emphasizes surface texture and strong color and light. Although the Walker has summered in Maine for many years, it is only in the past three years that he began recording the landscape in paint. However, he avoids beautiful or picturesque representations of the subject, focusing on a muddy cove with a tidal pool.
October Low Tide, Maine is divided into bold geometric shapes, emphasizing spatial ambiguities that are built into the compositions. The steep precipice of the cliff has been transformed into a rectangle that mirrors the shape of the canvas itself. While the cliff divides the composition vertically, the distant horizon provides an equally emphatic horizontal division. Under an ominous sky a kidney-shaped tidal pool takes on a life of its own, becoming as reminiscent of a painter’s palette than of the element in the landscape that inspired it. This shape becomes the focal point of October Low Tide, Maine, an abstract element in a pictorial field defined by the diagonal line that bisects the picture plane and carries our eye to the distant horizon. Walker addresses themes of movement and change as the words “low tide” suggest that the artist was working out of doors attending to an unexpected effect of light. The artist’s initial observation of the tidal pool, half cast in shadow, allowed him to construct the landscape as a pure abstraction. Freed of its context, the pool-palette shape can enter into a pictorial “conversation” with its surroundings. Half dark, half light, it suggests an engaging dialogue with its cubist imagery.
October Low Tide, Maine reflects Walker’s desire to reinterpret the painting tradition using the tools of abstraction. The painterly quality of the work, along with its emphasis on light, reveals his awareness of earlier masters like Goya, Manet, Matisse, and Velasquez; however, Walker maintains an essentially abstract pictorial language. Thus, the artist brings to his work a sophisticated understanding of the history of painting; Walker is an artist who can send us back to past masters with new eyes and back to nature with a sense of discovery.