Inspired in part by his passion for environmentalism and his sincere respect for the natural world, Tom Torluemke’s abundant landscapes embody the bounteousness of nature in its constantly changing essence and its limitless potential for artistic inspiration. Nature is continuous, unceasing, though in its details is always changing, making even the same trees, creeks and fields differ with each passing moment. Torluemke has proven remarkably adept at identifying and capturing the uniqueness in each idyllic scene he encounters. The landscapes that make up this catalog are only a mere selection of the plein air practice of Torluemke’s that nurtures his all-encompassing oeuvre. Throughout his lengthy career, the artist has repeatedly proven himself to be a master of any given medium, and remarkably deft at any genre. Though Torluemke’s contribution to the figurative tradition in Chicago and the Midwest is renowned, running adjacent to his dedication to the figure is his equally enduring commitment to the natural landscape.
With his discerning eye, Torluemke scours the natural landscapes of the American Midwest and northern Georgia for instances, large or small, that reveal the extraordinary. Emerging from amidst the soft greens and neutral tones of the surrounding foliage in Hiding Frogs is a shining pool of water, the sky reflecting off its surface a blue so vibrant that it is nearly neon. Elsewhere, in A Sky Spot Has Fallen To The Ground, this radiant blue appears again, this time as a smear of paint, merely a suggestion of a creek. Here, the depth of field amongst the tangles of tree branches is gone, the shapes mingling as a pattern, while tree trunks and grassy banks are loosely rendered shapes, contributing to the picture’s overall pictorial flatness –the artist’s imaginative way of composing an abstract painting from the world in front of his eyes.
While abstraction is sometimes the preferred style, other times Torluemke approaches his landscapes with the same desire for individualized likenesses that he brings to the portraits in his figurative practice. A Very Old Oak, one of Torluemke’s many dense and vibrant watercolors, features the stately tree amongst lush greenery, wrought in brushstrokes of browns and lavender highlights; the density and verticality of the artist’s gestures encapsulates the vitality inherent in this symbol of nature’s resilience. Likewise, in Undisturbed, a prominent conifer occupies the foreground of a snowy, dusky scene. Each bulbous knob, flaky piece of bark and sticky daub of snow is treated with precision, as if they were the features of a face the artist strives to accurately capture. Defined by deliberate, impressionistic strokes, this pictorialization of character nearly personifies the otherwise inanimate subject.
The viewers of Torluemke’s landscape works are continually offered an alternative look at the world they know, one that invariably addresses the same notion, but with a result on the canvas that is in always fresh and never repetitive. So with no end in sight, Torluemke’s series of nature paintings will continue illustrating that, despite all the foul things that mankind can build up around it, nature has the power not only to persevere, but flourish and inspire.