Jennifer Caine’s painting “Lookout”
Jennifer Caine’s painting “Lookout”Jeffrey Nintzel

Jennifer Caine sets out to echo the slow accumulation of time in her layered, mark-laden paintings. Encompassing and contemplative, her works at Soprafina Gallery hum in the way a forest murmurs — birdsong, leaves rustling, the snap of a twig.

The artist paints, sands, and paints again. She stencils marks on, incises them into the surface, or draws them into wet paint. She finishes her panels in white, but they blush with red and blue undercoats, which reveal themselves more frankly when she sands or cuts into her snowy surface.

The marks themselves — loops, blots, squiggles, and text borrowed from Caine’s journal — are riveting. I found myself pulled in, trying to read, to perceive, to grasp each odd gesture, as if to discern the moment of its making — what was she expressing? What was this about? Then the marks gather, chittering, colliding, and amassing into cascades, eruptions of fevered loops topped off with words such as “better” and “question.”

This agitated energy pushed me back out. The long view is quite different. Caine’s waves of cuts and blots and holes resemble misty Chinese landscape paintings, the rugged outlines of mountains breaking through fog. In places, in a painting such as “Look Out,” the paint itself tears and buckles, rough as a ridgeline.


In her statement, the artist compares her paintings’ layers to sedimentary rock, each wash of paint a new stratum, the marks like fossils. Their density reminded me of paintings by Mark Tobey, the Abstract Expressionist whose all-over canvases, threaded and tangled with innumerable pale marks, hold a kind of light. In the work of both artists, the accrual of marks and veils of paint become a vessel for life’s pulse.

Tiny gestures also build up in Caine’s drawings in red or black ink, achieving the same suggestion of swells and divots in a mountainous landscape. In the paintings, pale gaps suggest something unseen. In the drawings, open spaces simply breathe. The marks, as in the paintings, document the urgency of one single moment after the next.


JENNIFER CAINE: Imprint — New Paintings

At Soprafina Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., through April 27. 617-728-0770, www.soprafina.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.