"On this island there were no human ghosts, no ghosts of any ancient race. The sea, and the spume and the wind and the weather, had washed them all out, washed them out, so there was only the sound of the sea itself, its own ghost, myriad-voiced, communing and plotting and shouting all winter long. And only the smell of the sea, with a few bristly bushes of gorse and coarse tufts of heather, among the grey, pellucid rocks, in the grey, more pellucid air. The coldness, the greyness, even the soft, creeping fog of the sea! And the islet of rock humped up in it all, like the last point in space."
D, H, Lawrence, “The Man Who Loved Islands,” 1928
Of course, Lawrence’s protagonist, Cathcart,was only trying to find escape from the horrors men do to other men and to themselves in the aftermath of muddy trenches, blood-soaked river valleys, and desolate fields that was the first “Great War’s”legacy. Nothing could be further from Bartlett’s own enterprise—except, perhaps, those great mysteries of nature that islands seem to hold more closely, even jealously against a too busy, too loud, too unfocused world. That said, there is, too, in Lawrence’s island soliloquy and in several of these fresh-air infused paintings a quality of solace and renewal.
Bo Bartlett’s relatively small gouache paintings, produced during summers in Maine between 2016 and 2017 come as something of a respite from the larger, dramatic and metaphor-infused, more intellectually and psychologically charged, and seemingly more ambitious paintings for which he is best known. Seemingly, because the smaller works have their different levels of complexity, metaphor and magic.