Jim Sullivan was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1938. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and did graduate work at Stanford University in California. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts in Painting Fellowship; a Guggenheim Fellowship in Painting and a Fulbright Fellowship in Painting in Paris.
Sullivan’s paintings are completely invented; all come from his mind and have little basis in reality. While the artist paints trees, mountains, bodies of water, they appear in created visionary lands. Never does he approach the “conventional” in landscape with a view out the studio window.
Occasionally Sullivan seeks inspiration from visual sources: his own photos of the sky, passages of landscape paintings, often Hudson River School pieces, so altered as to render the source no longer identifiable. Sullivan strives to make his landscapes recede into deep and distant space, inventing them spatially. All of the landscapes are unpopulated, without any evidence of human presence. There is no sign of civilization, no buildings, no structures, no monuments to humankind. As the artist says of this phenomenon: “I am not sure if they are post or pre-human.”
He relishes what he calls “this confusion.” In many of the works, one passes through several seasons, in others through several weather systems; all of them suggest the passage of time. All of the works invite the viewer to step in close to them, consider the image and its unusual palette. Some paintings are based around a single color: a study in soft reds, roses and twilight sunset colors; others utilize the full spectrum of “landscape” colors with a key pitched closer to film than to reality.
Like Chinese scroll paintings which unfurl horizontally with a story or narrative in the landscape, Sullivan’s paintings unfold horizontally without human narrative, with an enigmatic storyline.