Stephen Ongpin Fine Art is pleased is represent the American artist Anne Connell. The gallery has mounted two exhibitions of recent works by Connell, in 2009 and 2014, each accompanied by a catalogue. More recently, the gallery has collaborated with the Chapel Art Center at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, to mount a retrospective exhibition of Anne’s work entitled The Silent Heart: Modern Illuminations by Anne Connell, held at the museum in 2016.
Anne Connell lives and works in Portland, Oregon, and has exhibited widely in America over the past three decades. Her small, exquisitely detailed paintings are characterized by a painstaking technique of oil and gold leaf on prepared panels, and display a rich vocabulary of motifs and influences that reflect her close study of medieval and Renaissance imagery. When I first came across Anne’s paintings, at a New York gallery in 2001, I was struck by the way in which her work reflected an obvious love of the art of the early Renaissance. Her paintings often sample images and patterns from Quattrocento sources, which she presents in unfamiliar ways to create an expressive vocabulary with its own meanings and purposes. As a review of that 2001 exhibition noted, ‘Borrowing patterns and fragmentary images from Italian Renaissance painting for her small, lovingly made panel paintings, Connell creates a quietly luminous symbolist poetry that seems as once antique and post-modern.’ (Ken Johnson, The New York Times, 18 May 2001).
Part of the appeal of Connell's paintings and works on paper is the craftsmanship evident in all of her work, characterized by a painstaking technique of oil, silverpoint, and, occasionally, gold leaf on prepared panels. Several of her recent works on paper include examples of the use of silverpoint, a technique more often associated with Italian and Flemish drawings of the 14th and 15th centuries.
Anne Connell has worked for several years in Italy, and her paintings seem to conduct a conversation with the art of the Renaissance. 'Meticulously and densely composed, Connell's paintings invite us - like a medieval manuscript illumination - to explore and enjoy the details: a glistening pearl here, a gilded quatrefoil there, a glimpse of Tuscan architecture on the left, a geometrical drawing on the right - and so on. Connell's deft handling of appropriated imagery beckons the viewer to negotiate a complex and elusive journey into the realms of the sacred and secular as well as the past and present.' (Marianne Lorenz, The Masters ReMastered, Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009.)
Anne Connell's intimately scaled paintings demand, and ultimately reward, the quiet contemplation of the viewer. As the writer and novelist Elizabeth Gilbert has so aptly noted of her work, 'Anne Connell invents worlds. Tiny, immaculate, and fascinating glimpses of worlds, to be precise. (And "precise" is the correct word to use here, because Anne paints with the detailed rigor of a master jeweler.) There is no actual place on earth that quite resembles her contrivances, but they have always evoked in me a deep sense of homesickness, nonetheless: a tangible longing to make myself very small and very quiet, so that I could slip somehow right into that world which does not - but which absolutely should - exist. That sense of enchantment, of magic, shimmers in every corner of this fabulist's work, and it is not easily forgotten.'