Nicholas Coley Abstract Landscapes

Edge of the Wood by Nicholas Coley

Nicholas Coley Art Exhibit:

Many artists fall in love with painting because of the sensual qualities of paint. Thickly brushed on oil paint is satisfying to use precisely because it is luxurious. Thick yet malleable, it can be moved around the surface of a canvas easily. The buttery quality of the paint and the richness of vibrant oil colors can start a love affair with paint that lasts a lifetime.

I was reminded of why I fell in love with painting when I stopped by Robert Allen Fine Art in Sausalito today to look at the current show “Local Landscape in Abstraction.” The exhibit is up through November 25, 2016. It is a group show of large vivid landscape paintings featuring the work of Nicholas Coley, John Maxon, Victoria Ryan and Victoria Veedell. While I enjoyed all the paintings – it is a large, bright and appealing group of work – I was especially struck today by the abstract landscapes of Nicholas Coley.

Abstract Marin Landscapes:

Coley paints landscapes outside from the back of his pick-up truck in sessions that may last seven or eight hours. The result is paintings with the energy and immediacy of Van Gough’s paintings of cornfields and Cezanne’s French landscapes, but with a distinctly Marin feel. Mount Tamalpais seen across the bay with fog touched by gold, a path through the trees bathed in golden light, a barn set against golden hills. Coley’s bright colors present his dynamic landscapes in the most cheerful light.

Above Baker Beach by Nicholas Coley
Above Baker Beach by Nicholas Coley

Viewed up close, the paintings seem to dissolve into a pattern of vigorous wide brushstrokes which pull in multiple colors and leave appealing ridges of texture. But step back six feet and suddenly the colors and patterns come together into a complete and balanced landscape that is both serene and dynamic.

Nicholas Coley’s Background and Influences:

Born in 1971 in Connecticut, Coley grew up in the small Marin County community of Muir Beach, California. He hitch-hiked around the United States for a couple years after high school, then moved to Europe and studied art at the Beaux-Arts and in the south of France, where he counts Cezanne and Buddhism as his influences.

Later, according to his artist’s statement: “Influences such as Wolf Kahn and other Bay Area figures allowed color theory to take a back seat to a generally looser love of all color and made more of a proclamation with bold brushwork and gestural lines. I looked for compositions with energy and tried to impress the immediacy and rush of painting…”

Nicholas Coley, Tennessee Valley Eucalyptus
Nicholas Coley, Tennessee Valley Eucalyptus

What I know is that Coley communicates with paint at an elemental level that is both tactile and speaks to a fabulous sense of color. He elevates ordinary slices of landscape to the extraordinary in a completely un-selfconscious way. Looking at Coley’s landscapes made me want to hurry back to my studio and grab a large brush or palette knife and try to infuse some of that painterly energy into my latest canvas, a Central Park scene that has been languishing half-finished on my easel since I returned from a trip to New York. I extend a big thank you Nicholas Coley ( and Robert Allen Fine Arts ( for bringing back my inspiration.

Paintings reproduced by kind permission of Nicholas Coley.

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