Embracing the essence of Organic Abstraction, Shar Coulson's work reflects her love of nature and the human figure. Working intuitively, Shar explores the idea of perception vs. reality within the allusive figuration, gestural line work and organic forms found in her paintings. Nature is by far her greatest inspiration because of its randomness and complex beauty. Her heightened ability to see recognizable objects in otherwise unrelated patterns, called pareidolia, guides her process… animals, plant-like forms or figures often appear.
She was formally trained in classical figurative realism, yet finds her passion runs deepest in the world of abstraction. The transition to painting abstractly allowed her to explore and express herself more freely. Along the way, Coulson found a connection in her paintings to an art style called Organic Abstraction. It was not a school or a movement but was characterized by “the use of rounded abstract forms based on what one finds in nature” and was prevalent in artists and sculptors such as Kandinsky, Miro, Henry Moore and Jean Arp. Finding alignment with Georgia O’Keeffe’s sense of color and sensuality, she is drawn to the Abstract Expressionists before her, who stepped into the unfamiliar and made it a credible artistic path.
Working from visual memory, the figuration appears and disappears within the shapes and gestural movements… it’s perception vs. reality that intrigues her. One viewer may see figures, animals or plant-like forms, but the next only abstract shapes and colors. She is most satisfied as an artist when the initial reaction is that of quiet calm and beauty followed by several aha moments.
Two words used to describe her work are organic and female; both are derived from her choice of earthy colors, natural shapes, and fluid line work. Coulson is acutely focused, making split-second decisions that are reactionary yet based on the knowledge and sense of materials which include acrylic and charcoal on linen, wood panel or paper. Coulson will hang the piece on her studio wall, look at it, turn it, then make more marks and add more paint. It’s an intense yet effortless journey.
Her sensibility is also deeply informed by a successful career as a designer and executive creative director. Shar exhibits both nationally and internationally. She lives and works in the Near West Side Market District of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
“Each free-flowing exploration is only complete when the abstract touches the familiar…that point when something definite has been created, but its mystery is still intact. In the beginning, it’s clearly abstract in all aspects. The figures, animals and organic forms that sometimes appear emerge from the interlocking shapes that present themselves during the media application. Once they’re identified, it’s difficult to see past them, and the layering and defining process begins. Pushing and pulling, shifting and refining until I step back one final time.” – Shar Coulson