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RECENT ROCKS | Christopher Pullman

  • Gladstone 36 1/2 Union Street Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, 01944 United States (map)
Slot, 2013, watercolor, 15” x 22”

Slot, 2013, watercolor, 15” x 22”

Opening Thursday, December 5, 5-8pm

With an ever-evolving eye, Christopher Pullman continues his exploration of the boulders and basalt ledges of coastal Annisquam.  Pullman approaches his subject as an exercise in theme and variation, painting the same groupings of rocks from different points of view. Watercolors and oils capture the shifting weather, tide, and distinctive Cape Ann light. 

The rocks are not so recent, having been dropped on Cape Ann by the retreating glaciers 10,00 years ago, but the paintings are. They represent my most recent record of the boulders and exposed granite and basalt ledges on Cambridge Beach and nearby Lighthouse Beach, both in Annisquam, where we have a summer cottage.

When my wife Esther and I moved to Boston in 1974, we were soon exposed to this wonderful landscape by my cousin, who by chance had married a man who grew up in Annisquam. Smitten, we immediately started renting a summer place and after 19 years were able to buy it. These rocks sit patiently on the beach right below our house. For over a decade I have found them to be an engaging and accessible subject whose aspect changes from hour to hour as the tide and weather change. The same subject looks radically different depending of the time of day, the sky and the tide, and so is constantly interesting, while being essentially the same since the ice age. You may recognize the same clusters in several paintings: ThreesomeSwell and Knee Deep.

The watercolors are all done on the spot, trying to capture the quality of the scene before (or usually while) it changes. Ditto with some of the oils. Others (for example the three over the cases and the large painting to the left of the front door) are done later, in my studio in Somerville, from references captured during the summer, or in the case of Ledge, Lighthouse Beach, in the winter.

Painting from a reference is definitely a different experience, with the outcome usually being slightly more interpreted. Something happens when the “real” thing is translated into a two dimensional, static image like a photograph and is then re-translated into a re-interpreted invention. And time plays a different role, too. Instead of working to capture something within a fixed time frame (before the sun sets or before the tide goes out), you can address the painting through a series of states until it is cooked to your liking.

- Christopher Pullman