Hollis Dunlap recently redesigned his website in a way that hitches his star firmly to figure painting. “To each their own,” said the old man as he kissed the cow, but I wish he were still focusing on landscape as well. Sometimes it seems that edgy contemporary figure painters flirting with chiaroscuro are a dime a dozen.
Still, Dunlap skillfully avoids the histrionics and absurdity that too many contemporary figure painters embrace. His paint application is skillfully controlled, and above all, interesting. That alone should commend him to anyone interested in contemporary figure painting.
Born in Vermont, he graduated from the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 1999. From there he went to the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, focusing on painting the figure in the context of interior space. His training has prepared him to use the techniques of the Old Masters, and that’s apparent in his high-contrast compositions. This, however, is a well-worn path, even if he is treading it as well as any living painter.
What redeems him, in my opinion, is a contemporary sensibility about composition and structure. That’s most evident in his landscape paintings, which are complex and well-composed.
The landscape is infinitely malleable in terms of space and structure—in other words, you can move the pieces of a scene around like chess men. Landscape is not, however, as susceptible to romantic fantasies of light. Even luminism can’t lie about the landscape nearly as well as chiaroscuro does about the figure. Come back to reality, Hollis Dunlap!