Lisa Russell : Intonation

Dolby Chadwick Gallery

Lisa Russell : Intonation

Jul 7 — Aug 27, 2022

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Dolby Chadwick Gallery is open by appointment only. Please schedule an appointment for a private viewing or request a virtual tour of the exhibition by emailing

Dolby Chadwick Gallery is delighted to announce Intonation, an exhibition of new work by Lisa Russell, on view this July and August.

Russell’s paintings accomplish the monumental task of describing scenes that are subtly recognizable, flickering with the familiar, while also being wholly abstract. The artist achieves this balancing act by basing her works on objective reality—more specifically, on still lifes she sets up in her studio—in order to explore and “articulate the rhythms and harmonies present in visual phenomena.” Here, a range of rectangular shapes in delicate pastels and punchy jewel-toned colors coalesce as bodies in space, forming interlocking yet flexible arrangements. Smooth swipes of the palette knife generate tangible tension with ridges of buttery impasto, indications of brushwork, and passages of modulated color.

Russell notes that her works have slowly become more abstract over the years, a journey partly rooted in the realization “that the emotive qualities of a painting come from its formal qualities.” Among her principle sources of pleasure and inspiration is the experience of seeing—that is, of observing and analyzing—the rich visual landscape in which we are immersed. Abstraction allows her to drill down to the formal essence of a given arrangement; in the process, she is able to create poignant studies of the interrelationships between form, light, and space that are exacting in their fidelity to what things look like but that nevertheless skirt naturalism. The small scale of the paintings, many of which are 8 by 6 inches, amplifies the intimacy and intensity of seeing and experiencing.

Formal relationships produce an endless diversity of material and emotional patterns and structures, both demarcating and creating space, while “colors echo and reverberate like various symphonies and musical notations.” Underscoring this emphasis on the musical aspect of the works is their naming structure—all of which include the title “Intonation,” followed by a number, a reference to the specific color notes and tones that establish the intervals, melody, and harmonies of a painting.

Specific artistic lineages can be traced within Russell’s work, from Morandi and Cezanne to Nicolas de Stael and Robert Motherwell. Morandi plays a particularly special role: “His intimate and architectural forms of subtle color and tone, the tension between flat interlocking forms and the pulsation of space, create a harmonious unity. The best of his work feels both sacred and profane.” Russell’s and Morandi’s shared use of the still life combined with parallels between color, form, and a devotion to perceptual integrity are unmistakable. And yet, Russell’s works are entirely her own, exercises in innovation and expressions of personal engagement with reality and sensation. This is evinced in the strikingly sensual nature of her paintings and process, which require a heightened sensory response to her environment.

Such a response includes touch, which enhances our ability to see and provides visceral data that rounds out our mental conception of an object or scene. Russell harnesses touch through her tactile engagement and response to paint, which is partly translated into the works as lush impasto. As a result, her art conveys an exuberance that is more than just the sum of a harmony between marks, lines, and shapes. Instead, we can almost feel ourselves moving within the compositions, in and out of the cool shadows, and between the forms that rise and fall, that come together and break apart. A painting’s full potential, Russell’s art seems to stress, is only reached when it captivates us at a more fully somatic level—engaging not just sight but also touch and hearing, plunging us into a truly remarkable embodied experience.

Lisa Russell was born in Boston. She earned a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, followed by an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, Boston. A professor of fine art at Rhode Island College, Russell has shown extensively across the United States in both solo and group exhibitions and as part of juried shows. This will be her first solo exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery.

Lisa Russell. Intonation #125, 2022 Oil on canvas 8 x 6 in