Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY
Irish artist Michelle Rogers blends nature and humanity in her painting, trying to bring people closer to gaia both within her work and as an environmentalist. Pictured left: Summer in the Woods, 2015; right: Sentanta, 2015
(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

When Italy’s fabled Doria Pamphilj family set out to have a portrait painted in 2012, their choice of artist was sure to bring someone into rarefied company. As Roman aristocrats and custodians of one of Italy’s most lavish palazzos – as well as a vast art collection including works by the likes of Caravaggio, Raphael, and Velázquez – their portrait was something for the annals of art history. For this plum commission, they turned to softly-spoken Irish painter Michelle Rogers (opens in new tab) – now the subject of an exhibition at New York’s Jenn Singer Gallery (opens in new tab).

For an artist who now splits her time between dense urban areas – Rome and New York – her work might seem surprisingly Arcadian. But even though her paintings evoke some kind of distant wilderness untouched by human hands, she finds the settings closer to home. With Garden in the Forest, for example, she painted her subject at the Pool, a small pond in Central Park just steps away from the busy Central Park West thoroughfare. For others in the collection, she painted in Rome’s Orto Botanico.

Beyond the sites themselves, Rogers references landscapes she has experienced over her life. 'The greenness is very Irish,' she says. 'And the soil in Ireland is a dark black,' she adds, pointing to the tones that tend to dominate the canvas. The terracotta hues and the contrast between light and dark she attributes to her time in Italy. She renders human bodies – often shirtless young men – with a flesh color inspired by her extensive studies of Caravaggio.

A committed environmentalist, Rogers has an explicit point to make through her work. 'If we continue distancing ourselves from nature, we’ll be headed for something very bad,' she says. With that in mind, she will be exhibiting work at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December. 'It’s so important for artists and creative types to participate in that dialogue,' she says. Even with this strong point of view, she connects people with nature in subtle ways – through the shadow of a leaf on someone’s face or the reflection of a human body on the surface of a pond. All of this she does with one thing in mind: 'I’m trying to get people back to nature.'

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

Neither humans nor nature are the subject – they weave among each other, occupying the same space. Pictured: Bamboo Forest, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

The images' rich tones are drawn from memories of her environment; her ubiquitous greens are inspired by the emerald fields of Ireland. Pictured: Call of the Sun, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

'The soil in Ireland is a dark black,' she adds, referring to the tones that tend to dominate the canvas. Pictured: Narcisso, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

She renders human bodies – often shirtless young men – in a flesh colour inspired by her extensive studies of Caravaggio. Pictured left: Facing the Sun, 2015; right: Eve, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

Her images evoke a sense of a land untouched by humanity – even a man-made bridge appears to have been reclaimed by nature in its green hue. Pictured: Tender Alchemy, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

Her commitment to environmentalism has led to her exhibiting her work at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, stressing the belief that it's 'important for creative types to participate in the dialogue'. Pictured: Feel of Leaves, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

Into the wild: 'Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy' opens at Jenn Singer Gallery, NY

Her inspiration is not only grounded in nature: she pulls from the urban environment in which she lives, New York, where a small pond near Central Park inspired this beautiful stream of green and azure. Pictured: Garden in the Forest, 2015

(Image credit: Michelle Rogers)

INFORMATION
Website

Courtesy Elizabeth Bick. ’Michelle Rogers: Tender Alchemy’ is on view at the Jenn Singer Gallery until 7 October

ADDRESS

Jenn Singer Gallery
72 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

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