Margaret Neill, a NY artist based in Brooklyn, has been making black and white drawings in charcoal and graphite since 1978. Neill acknowledges nature as one inspiration for these pure abstractions. Nature aside this is a joyful and confident body of work primarily about the pleasures of mark making: where you place your marks and where you don't, with white paper transformed into a beautiful light of what's in between. A trance-like mindset must be requisite for the focus and continuous motion necessary to make such dense and intricate, and minimal works. It's a risky business with little margin for error. Neill's drawings are equally satisfying as analogues for music - the lovely quiet sounds of layer upon layer of pencil-thin graphite swirls and the din of black of black ink and charcoal.
Margaret Neill is represented in public collections nationwide including the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Yale University Art Gallery, the Arkansas Art Center,and the Colby College Museum. Works have been featured in numerous one-person and group shows throughout the country including the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cleveland Center of Contemporary Art, and at such academic institutions as Columbia, Hofstra, Hiram College, and Kent State University.
The Pleasures of Parallax by Stephen Maine
The organic forms of nature have provided abstract painters with a point of departure since abstraction's invention a century ago, but Margaret Neill does much more, in her work, than reinterpret the appearances of the natural world. She invents analogies for the visceral and optical sensations accompanying its experience. Primary among these is parallax, the apparent change in the relative position of objects as seen by the observer in motion. The artist approximates this perceptual phenomenon through a sophisticated shuffling of the painting's visual hierarchy, by means of which glancingly aligned edges of neighboring shapes suggest (but infrequently allow) a gap through which hurtling space is glimpsed. Such pictorial expansion is tempered by the pressure exerted on these tremulous, forceful configurations by the boundaries of the canvas. These remarkable paintings convey imminence, insist on transience, and are anchored by dynamic equilibrium.
Their imagery is bound up with the artist's idiosyncratic paint handling. She scrapes semi liquid layers of paint one over another, developing complex hues informed by the inner glow of filtered light. The method mediates her touch, and the attendant optical blending of color suggests form rising up out of the depth of pictorial space...Though their flat areas of color are devoid of illusionistic rendering, they imply volume through contour. Swaying and billowing shapes suggest the motion of wind or water, or the unfurling of botanical forms...These pictures might be enlargements of localized conditions, or panoramic views of enveloping circumstances. In many, there is a warm spot - a sumptuous decision - to which the eye repeatedly returns. They are elegant and graceful, but also full of surprises, like the way the edges of a shape veer apart to become a chromatic environment, or tuck behind each other and vanish. For me, there is a moment after a period of looking at one of Margaret's paintings when awareness of the process by which it is formed falls away and the painting seems, simply, inevitable.
Stephen Maine is an artist and critic based in Brooklyn.
December 2010 issue, page 424
Charcoal Drawings in the collection of Joel and Sarah McHale
Designer Kelly Wearstler
Review, Art in America
"Having explored the possibility of looping gestural mark-making in her earlier work, Margaret Neill now examines line by focusing on the edges of forms, in so doing, she comes to grip with color in a big way...Her beautiful and ingenious new paintings employ a simple compositional device..The works abundant humor results from the surprise of apparently casual construction rendered to precise effect."
-Stephen Maine, Art in America, 2003
Steven Alexander: STEVEN ALEXANDER JOURNAL August 12, 2009
Margaret Neill has completed a beautiful new series of charcoal drawings, being presented as an online project by Cheryl Pelavin Fine Arts in Tribeca. These are deeply sensuous works with dense black shapes built from layers of charcoal rubbed into the surface of the paper, and white spaces activated by charcoal smudges and erasures. The images are simple curves and intersecting geometries, fragments of infinite configurations that form focused interactions of light and dark -- an elegant fusion of physicality and grace.
bands with deep layered surfaces -- but I was not familiar with her drawings. Explorations of intersecting archetypal shapes -- arcs, elipses, circles -- in dense charcoal on white ground, these works are beautifully direct and sensuous. Their configurations are at once primal and analytical, the products of a highly focused painter's engagement with her materials, with the discipline of drawing, and with the world.
Review, Brooklyn Rail
"The exhibition at Metaphor Contemporary Art, titled Spectrum consists of four painters, each dealing preeminently with color..there is a kind of world view, a Weltanschuung, in which artists are striving to obtain a sense of meaning...a definitive mark upon time by way of pure painterly intuition."
Weltanschauung and Abstract Painting
-Robert Morgan, Brooklyn Rail, June 2008
Review, New York Sun
"Margaret Neill is an abstract painter who sets herself the rigors that many abstract painters turn to abstraction to avoid. She works within clearly defined contours and reaches for a spatial complexity that is more often the domain of representation than of abstraction. Her first exhibition at Cheryl Pelavin is poised accomplished and welcome."
-Maureen Mullarkey, NYSun, May 2007