Essay: Adele Sypesteyn

painting by Adele Sypesteyn

“Before I paint, I sit down in my chair in the corner and go through a quieting of the mind, breathing and slowing down my thoughts and trying to empty them out to have a clean slate. It’s a very serene place.” —Adele Sypesteyn

From a place of quiet solitude, Adele Sypesteyn creates work that gives voice to her interior world—one beyond words. She has ferried through life’s valleys of losses and gains, and the excavation of that life is from a reservoir brimming with experience and depth. Out of this excavation she creates layer after layer on her canvases, a subconscious recorded history of sorts, which she then offers to us as a portal to our own awareness and peace.

Her life is her art, and they are inseparable day-to-day companions. These worlds co-create naturally as Sypesteyn engages in her daily routine of painting and living. In moments of creation, she leaves thought and its many attachments behind, tempering the pull toward distraction with a process of meditative creation. Through their calming, muted palette and open spaces, they invite us to visit her in a serene place of openness tethered by subtle horizontal lines, grids, and references to architectural forms.

The surfaces of her paintings result from numerous layers—a process of building up and removal. Marks on the surface and beneath evolve out of an innate and personal language. Often she uses her left, not right hand to add these visual musings, freeing her from referential writing.

“My process involves many layers of adding and subtracting colors, line, and forms that combine random acts of painting with more deliberate mark making… My approach has developed into an intuitive process of dialogue with the painting. The joy of discovering the new and unexpected keeps me engaged.”

She invites the viewer to ask what is beneath the surface, to engage in the mystery of what is veiled partially or completely—even those things that cannot be deciphered. Always restful, sometimes playful, subtle horizontal color fields are punctuated by vertical or diagonal marks, scratches, drips, and spatters that move in, out, and over them, pulling the eye from one band of color to another. Each painting in her abstract series of work is recognizable as hers, relating clearly to the others in feeling and aesthetic.

“To me, a series is like a group of people, or energy, all wanting to develop into their own identity. They each have something individual to say, and yet as a collective, they are related.”

Her personal history of caring for a mother with cancer and others in her life has led her to a place of great empathy. At one point in her life she worked with cancer patients, helping them gain peace through art therapy. She strongly believes in the healing capacity of art, and this is her focus for both herself and those of us who engage with her work.

“My joy comes from sharing. I have achieved more fame in my art life than I ever expected to have. But that doesn’t impress me. What does impress me is being able to bring more art into people’s lives.”

As always in her life, she continuously is on a new road of discovery, and her work is an offspring of this journey. After she moved from Seattle to Los Angeles a few years ago she turned her living space into a teaching space and studio. From this simplification of her material world, she is free to expand in ways that might not have been possible before. Freed of “things,” she can focus on what is most important to her now. Taking her to a place where she never feels alone, painting brings her joy and a great sense of peace that she hopes to share with all of us.

I paint in a solitary mental and physical place; silence is the only way I can hear.

—Katherine Duncan Aimone, fine arts writer