by Nalini Davison
Over the last several years, Jill Roman has been defining herself as an artist, experimenting with various subjects and styles until finally she has settled on a very distinctive rendering of the feminine to bring forth her enormous talent. Her women - strong, spirited, and beautiful - seem to merge into their own unique environment, becoming bigger than life, with energy bursting beyond their skins. Carrying the viewer along in a whirl of bold colors and imaginative forms, they are striking, sometimes even shocking in their ability to delight the eye and fire the imagination.
In her recent paintings, Jill seems to have tapped into a deeper, quieter part of the feminine, a part which could lead us into a more universal experience of “woman.” With her newest painting, Psyche, Jill calls forth the yearning for that ephemeral, perfected feminine within. According to Greek mythology, Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul, underwent a journey of intense testing and tempering, facing the darkness alone, so that she could be fully ready for union with her divine husband, Eros.
Jill’s Psyche, which is steeped in haunting innocence, reminds us of that perfected beauty and fullness which perhaps the mythological Psyche embodied before she began her arduous journey. We all long for and are delighted by a vision of the ideal feminine within, the soul naked in vulnerability and beauty. Jill seems to have come into a new realm with this painting because she has magically captured a moment in the inner spirit which we can all recognize as a part of ourselves.
Aurelia's Dream, another of Jill’s recent paintings, presents a masterful play of light and form, punctuated with intense, vibrant colors. The main figure, who carries a rich and regal presence, also charms the eye with her supple and youthful body. This painting, as well as Psyche, is oddly reminiscent of some of the Italian masterpieces of the 15th century-- works which demonstrate the same meditative, inward gaze of the eyes, the same high forehead, and the same liquid perfection of skin tones. The wonderfully outrageous, bouffant headdress of the main figure is, in fact, suggestive of those worn in the 15th century Italian court.
Aurelia rests her cheek on long and graceful fingers in a pose of utmost composure and rest. As we ponder the pose, along with the classic, quiet beauty of her expression, we wonder: Is she a goddess? What interior fantasies is she weaving? Is she dreaming of creating the universe?
Robbert’s Beauty is set in luscious, iridescent shades of turquoise and violet, a background which brings forward a mood of meditative tranquility to frame the central figure. Perfectly sculpted, she extends herself in languorous repose as she gazes upward reflectively. Jill was inspired to create this painting by a photographic work of Robbert Van Santen, a Dutch photographic artist (1926-2003).
Robbert, as a young Jewish teenager, lived through the Holocaust in Holland, hiding out for two years in a space smaller than a closet. Emerging from the horror of that ordeal, he went on to become a master photographer. Well known for his portraits of nudes, he often casts his women in stunning contrasts of light and shadow, thereby creating an intense dramatic effect.
Jill and Robbert, who became friends several years ago, immediately became avid admirers of each other’s work. Robbert would often visit Jill’s gallery in her home, staring for hours at her paintings. Several weeks before Robbert passed away, Jill took several of his portraits of nudes with her on a trip to Hawaii. One beautiful, sunny, Hawaiian day, as Jill sat on the beach perusing his photographs, she was particularly moved by one of them and decided to do a painting of it as gift for Robbert. She called to let him know, only to find that Robbert lay in a coma near death. Robbert’s wife, however, wanted Robbert to hear this news; so, she bent down and whispered it into his ear. He opened his eyes and smiled. Several months later, after Robbert had passed away, Jill completed her gift to Robbert and fittingly named it Robbert’s Beauty.