Mark Gingerich's new exhibition of contemporary impressionist paintings opens at Brandt-Roberts Galleries on Sunday

In one of Mark Gingerich’s impressionistic paintings, the yellow beams of car headlights and the concentrated glow of lamp posts illuminate a twilight street scene. In the background, a steeple from a vaguely gothic-looking church juts into the sky.

“It looks like it could be Europe. It has this timeless quality to it,” Gingerich said recently by phone. “It's kind of hard to tell it's Ohio.”

The street scene comes from Gingerich’s Madison County hometown of West Jefferson, Ohio, but it fits right in alongside other paintings of scenes in France and Switzerland. Elsewhere in Gingerich’s new solo show, “And all the land was swathed with color,” which opens Sunday, March 1, at Brandt-Roberts Galleries, the gardens and houses in “French Country” have much in common with the bucolic setting of “Hocking County Homestead.”

On the one hand, intermixing Ohio scenery with European locales is a way to put their geography on an equal playing field. Who’s to say the French countryside is more inherently beautiful than Hocking County farms? On the other hand, the consistency of their beauty is less about place and more about the painter.

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“The thing that's really cool about a painting a lot of times isn't even where it was at, but how it's done,” Gingerich said. “A painting can be done almost anywhere. If you can get a sense of light and atmosphere and mood, the location is sort of a point of departure for a piece of artwork that draws you in.”

Still, there has to be some initial spark of inspiration for Gingerich, who has years of experience with plein air painting, but more recently has been working from photographs in his West Jefferson studio. Often it starts with interesting shapes. “It’s kind of like music. Music sounds good when you have whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and some syncopation, triplets. I think art is somewhat similar, in that you get bored if you see the same things too much,” Gingerich said, emphasizing the importance of a variety of shapes and lines, as well as a sense of tension between the light and dark values. “When I'm in the studio, I will adjust reality to make it stronger. So I may adjust the values. I may take something out or move something just to make it stronger. But there's initially something that draws me.”

While Gingerich said he understands color in a deeper way now than when he first began painting, he’s always discovering more. “You never arrive. You realize how much more there is to learn,” he said. “It's always a battle.”