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A Pittsburgh-raised painter returns from Norway with impressive new work. 

The viewer must pause to adjust his eyes to the tenebrous colors, but he is rewarded by the sense of depth and mystery.

"Still Life With Busts," by Dylan Critchfield-Sales

"Still Life With Busts," by Dylan Critchfield-Sales

Is success a matter of talent, serendipity or just fate? Dylan Critchfield-Sales, a 26-year-old artist whose work is on display at the 43rd Street Gallery, believes his success is about simply taking advantage of his artistic development.

He completed works in his latest exhibit in Norway and France in 2011, under the tutelage of the renowned painter Odd Nerdrum. The paintings show concern with direct visual experience and demonstrate his love of nature.

These mostly smaller works include landscapes, interiors, self-portraits and still lifes. The observer is at once struck by the dark mood of many of the works that utilize dark reds, browns and blacks. There is a certain power to this limited palette, reminiscent of Rembrandt but closer to the Italian artist Morandi, whose work is succinct and devoted to the essentials.

The viewer must pause to adjust his eyes to the tenebrous colors, but he is rewarded by the details of light which emerge and by the sense of depth and mystery. In fact, there is almost a haunting atmosphere to these paintings, which may be ascribed to the dim light of a Norwegian winter.

Critchfield's talent cannot be overstated. His art is concerned with tonal relationships, and the placing of one spot of color in relation to another. Striving for objective renderings, his paintings also impart the abstract nature of the world. Whether it is an old shed, a dry-docked boat or a well-worn whetstone, the artist endeavors to express the momentary and fleeting. In a painting entitled "Bedroom Interior," one of the few with a figure in it, we feel the push and pull of absence and presence. Another canvas, which represents a lavender-colored fog, is purely about color temperature and texture.

There are quite a few smaller paintings done on corrugated cardboard — concise portrait studies, and still lifes — as well as some exquisite Norwegian island studies done in muted colors. In an interview, Critchfield said he is concerned with the cohesiveness of a composition even if the color relationships are not entirely resolved. Overall, an intense intelligence imbued with melancholy informs the work. If he continues to create at this level, we can expect great things from this artist who grew up in Pittsburgh and is currently at a residency at the University of South Carolina. 

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