A Critical Appreciation of the Art of Steve Senter

Welcome to the art of Steve Senter. You will find his colors lively, his forms arresting, and the stories his paintings enact compelling. Senter’s paintings are striking for an expressive dynamism which persuades you that it propelled the creative process and now resides in the finished work. The paintings don’t so much transmit ideas as they couple painter and viewer in a shared experience. Rather than tell you what Senter sees, his paintings simply ask you to see it along with him, but for yourself.

Senter describes his work as intensely involving. “I’m moving continually,” he says, “between certainty and doubt – I’m constantly interrogating the process.” His work, Senter says, always seems to be inviting the very interpretation it resists. The paintings’ titles are inseparable from that paradox. While “Self-Portrait” is anything but conventionally representational, it nevertheless features an actual head which, amid contending patches of color, makes a mischievous offer of literalism. “Wolf,” “Love Triangle,” “Rondo,” and “Tropic” are all titles which have emerged as the works evolved and which, as Senter says, have helped the paintings “to find their wrap-up.” In the end, for all that Senter’s paintings with their prompting titles and repertory of enigmatic shapes – Klein bottles, geological peaks, vagrant pipes, geometric rings, calla lilies, or what have you – may seem to promise the representation of something specific, they refuse any analogue and remain visual assertions unto themselves.

Senter’s work on a painting may reach its end, but “the whole painting,” he says,“I never solve it – I get to a point where there’s nothing more I can understand about it and I move on.” “It’s like cooking,” he explains. “All the ingredients have to be ready to come together at the same time. Only with painting you don’t have a recipe and you don’t know where the endeavor is going or what the final product is meant to be.” Senter’s “ingredients” include a rich palette of colors both soft and bright, a selection which over an artistic lifetime has grown ever more exuberant (one might even say “Californian”) and “plein air.” With a taut and fluid interplay of careful precision and unscripted expression, Senter achieves results that surprise and confirm, satisfy and provoke. Each Senter painting bears with it the story of its own coming into being, a story which recruits you to join the artist in his risk and share in the visual reward of his discoveries.

Todd Boli, Framingham, MA, July 2012 

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