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Landscape with Border

Medium:Oil on canvas
Size inches:72 x 48
Size cm:182.9 x 121.9
Signature:Inscribed on the reverse.
Location:Private Collection, Hong Kong, China

One painting from 1968, "Landscape with Border," is an early period masterpiece. Its center is occupied by two squares, one totally red, the other filled with a Romantically moonlit landscape. Around these two squares run thirteen smaller paintings, including landscapes, group portraits and still-lifes, among others. The two central squares are "bordered" by a thin strip of cursive writing, again illegible, and then the border of the thirteen paintings is also in turn bordered by another band of painterly written words. Paintings surrounding, bordering, and inscribing paintings: all landscapes have borders, and all borders form paintings. As seems fit for early work, the thirteen paintings are loosely done, like oil sketches. (One of the chief developments in Deem's career was towards more precise rendering, as the late Vermeers become technically quite dazzling.) This early painting seems to say that words have a taxonomic-like function in offering a control of, and commentary on, the multiplication of painting's images. We must try to say what it is that we have seen. By turning words into subjects of painting, however, Deem suggests that they succumb in their attempt at a containment of plenitude, becoming instead a part of what they would describe. In making the words illegible, he knows that we must leave room for the ineffably multiple meanings of a great painting, such multiplicity being its source of pleasure and presence. This knowledge, of course, is what made him paint the way he did. (Charles Molesworth, excerpt from "Presence and Pleasure in the Art of George Deem," George Deem, catalog of Allan Stone Gallery/Pavel Zoubok Gallery joint memorial exhibition, 2009).

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