Clockwise from top left (see below for more information on each):
Materials: Digital art printed on Willow Glass.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, fifth floor patient rooms.
Lily Pond, digital print on vinyl wallcovering is also located in the Volunteer Services Office, Akron Campus.
Pictured from left (see below for information on each):
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), green neighborhood, second floor outside N elevators.
These works were acquired for the Summa Health System — Akron Campus Wayfinding Project.
Caroline Rowntree has worked as a graphic designer for many years after studying painting at the Central St. Martins School of Art in London, and she has also taught graphic design in the S.U.N.Y. system in New York. She now lives and works in Columbus as a full-time printmaker and creator of digital images on her computer. These can be viewed on screens or, as in these works, printed on panels. The four works by this artist were selected specifically for the patient rooms in the new Summa tower. In this environment, where hygiene is critical, our curator chose digitally produced original works which the architect then had printed on Willow Glass, a super-thin, super-hard glass which can be thoroughly cleaned without degrading the image.
Color makes the first impression when you encounter this digitally created painting: She brings the beholder in close and tight to areas of related colors — cream and canary yellows, multiple shades of orange, then a range of greens to whites, which are set off against deep charcoal flecked with lighter grey and then surprise! — pink! Most of these areas are painted abstractly, not necessarily representing any particular form, and then, through or on top of them, the artist makes marks that emulate or suggest stems and the outlines of leaves, grounding us in the plant world. While this painting was created entirely through digital means, on a computer, the beholder has the sense of the artist’s mark — a brushstroke here, a line created by the gesture of hand and arm, even “doodling” with lines that emulate a paint-laden brush or a very fine pen. The result is both an impression of a particular floral setting and a record of the artist’s processes of thinking and making.
This vigorous evocation of a garden began as a photograph (or more than one): The artist then digitized the image(s) and used a drawing/painting software program to draw and paint further. Her artist statement emphasizes that her paintings, like much of her graphic work, explores surface, pattern, color and shape, and even these computer-produced marks look more like paint-laden brush strokes that end in fringed edges, as though the artist finished those strokes with a dry brush. She chose a bold, hot palette — scarlets, ochres, oranges, and yellows — to contrast with the cooler deep greens at left and then that bright green patch at right. This garden is bounded by a solid fence (left verticals) that grows ever more sketchy, receding into depth and becoming simple vertical strokes, again more artist’s marks than effort to represent wooden uprights. In what might be a sandy area sits a folding chair, inviting the beholder to rest and look back; on which side is the “beyond” of the title?
The emphatically horizontal format for this work right away induces calm in its sense of expansiveness. Rowntree has chosen a cool palette — deep blues, violets, lavenders, duller greens — for most of the composition, but then contrasts this with the brighter greens and the orange slashes — reeds? stems? — at the right. Areas of unmodulated color create the leaves and lily pads, along with blacks and deep greens that suggest the pond’s depths. And then, as though to tease us, the artist creates other lily pads and reflections on the water by means of thin lines that suggest penstrokes on the surface, even as this “painting” was created digitally on a computer. The strokes push and pull our eyes into and then again out of the water of this lily pond, keeping us moving and thinking about what we are seeing.
Materials: Archival digital print on watercolor paper, 3 of 25; 24"x36".
This digital print is based on patterns and forms that inspired Rowntree in the farmlands surrounding Mohonk Mountain House, a resort in New York’s Hudson Valley. Rowntree’s powerful abstraction of land forms and buildings contrast with her more detailed representation of a stand of trees and especially of the tattered clouds in the upper half of the print.We can ourselves begin to experience abstracting complex forms by squinting at a distant object so that the details dissolve and only larger form remains.(That’s not exactly how artists abstract form, but it works for us to get a non-professional approximation.) Abstraction is a form of artistic generalization that moves away from specifics even as it retains certain essential qualities; artists get to decide what those are, for their specific purposes.
With respect to form, in this work we respond especially to those sinuous horizontal lines of the topography, reduced to areas of bold, unmodulated color. They establish a peaceful mood, even as the artist has contrasted them with the sharp, darker outlines of firs and broken black lines suggesting tree trunks and limbs in the right middle ground. Even greater contrast is introduced in the movement and complexity of the windswept clouds high in the sky. Compositionally, these mass at the upper left where the landscape calmly undulates and then break and rise just above the more detailed area of barns and trees at center right. With these choices, the artist avoids crowding, which would jeopardize the overall languorous mood of this pastoral landscape.
Finally we should notice that Rowntree’s color scheme here uses secondary and tertiary hues on the paint color wheel: green (made up of the primaries blue and yellow), purple (made up of red and blue), and orange (yellow and red); then a bluish green, a yellowish green, and a violet blue, which on the color wheel come between primaries and secondaries and so are known as tertiaries. This expert color performance throws the deep red — the only primary color here — of the long barn of the title into sharp relief, red being the complement or opposite — on the color wheel — of the dominant green of this print. That’s why it was selected for Summa’s green neighborhood.
In this print, Rowntree situates the beholder right down in the midst of the tulips of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. This work is a printed version of a “painting” created digitally on a computer: We note the very painterly broad sweeps of color defining the background and the splashes composing the tulip beds in which we find ourselves. Edges of blossoms are frayed and softened, contrasting with the multi-colored linear slashes of green, red, and purple that suggest the densely-packed stems of the flowers. The artist graduates colors from left to right and from bright to darker, creating an impression more than a strict record of the visual experience. This is one of Rowntree’s preferred methods of presenting her subjects: She likes to bring the beholder in close and tight to the abstracted, but still recognizable, forms of leaf, flower, and shrub so that we are awash in the experience of color and line. And just so we don’t forget, on top of these areas she uses a playful line to draw the shapes of characteristic tulip profiles and other flower and leaf forms, cues as to how to interpret those larger areas of color.
Materials: Archival digital print on watercolor paper, 5 of 25; 24”x 36”
Like Long Barn, this digital print was based on patterns and forms that inspired the artist in the farmlands in the Hudson Valley in New York, not too far from where the Rowntree family lived for many years. Rowntree was educated, worked, and taught as a designer for most of her career, and her strongly abstracted (in this case, highly simplified) landscapes — chosen to mark the green neighborhood in Summa’s Wayfinding Project — reflect some of the aesthetic values of that design career.
Caroline Rowntree’s work is very much a product of our times, and almost unique in the Summa Collection in its production. For this painting and others in the green neighborhood, she begins with photographs she has made and selects and combines passages that allow her the opportunity to explore color in space. At that point, she begins to paint on her computer, using digital tools (software) for mark-making, color, scaling, and composing, just as a painter would use brushes, pigments, and measuring devices. The finished work, a painting, exists as a digital file, not as a work on canvas or in some other traditional material. That file is then printed out, using a commercial printer, with archival inks on watercolor paper, chosen by the artist. It is not a copy of a painting nor a print of some other original work: It is a digital painting.
As in other works, in Red Barns the artist subtly applies basic color lessons. She chooses the secondary hue green and its complement on the color wheel, the primary red. But this is no red-and-green Christmas card. In the two barns of the title, at center left, the red is shaded so that it has weight, while the line of trees back at the edge of the rising field has been lightened (and given some texture with blue). The dominant green is really a yellow-green, growing even more toned-down as it recedes into the distance. Blue, unsurprisingly, is used for the sky but perhaps more surprising, also for some trees near the barns; for a shadowed area, like a rivulet, running across the middle ground; and then for the delicate profile of a running fence nearer to us. The red-blue-yellow/green triad suggests the stability of the three primary colors in addition to the nuanced complementaries with which Rowntree begins.
More than half of the vertical dimension of this print is filled with the gently undulating horizontal lines of the green fields and their features, creating a sense of calm. Then that red line of trees, diminishing in the deep right, sets off the drama above, those broken, rain-filled clouds. It’s in the sky that the artist represents the less tranquil effects of wind and water and sunlight. Yet these do not seem to affect the peaceful landscape below, but just float by …
Another artist in the Summa Collection whose work begins inside the computer is Andrew Reach, who also works with color but for a totally different purpose.
Materials: archival digital print on watercolor paper, 5 of 25; 24” x 24”
Inspired by the countryside around the village of Sheering in Hertfordshire, England, Rowntree abstracts landscape details — that is, generalizes and simplifies — and then re-composes them as a painter might, using digital tools on the computer instead of paint. She re-draws forms and translates or otherwise alters color to suit her vision, which is finally digitally printed. The results are striking in that the overall impression is that of reduction, yet there is movement and complexity, as well as very adroit handling of color relationships. Here the colors yellow-green and the blue-violet are part of a color triad (the orange-red has been omitted) that the artist enlarges subtly by including other blue-greens and other violets in the receding rolling ground. They are not jarring because, coloristically, they are related and now subtly controlled.
Rowntree says that, originally, her digital paintings emulated the “iconic American designs” of patchwork quilts; we can detect that particularly in this painting, even though its subject is the English countryside where she visits family. The broad swathes of color which have become landscape could be likened to patches of re-purposed old fabric, which, at its edges where stitched, convolutes and fractures, becoming in this painting the outlines of hedgerows, trees, and forests, maybe the line of a weather front in the distance. Only the peaks of two roofs in the middle ground, and perhaps a narrow track over the hills, suggest human presence. More than half the composition’s vertical is filled by an ambiguous, empty sky, potentially ominous but, in relation to the rest of the composition, somehow fitting.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
An original edition of a Rowntree print was selected for the 2019 Ohio Governor’s Awards for the Arts, given as a prize to every winner of an award. More work by this artist may also be seen on her website.