Introduction to Here, As Now
As a means of offering a brief introduction to our upcoming exhibition Here, as Now, our resident curator Walker Thisted has written a few words to help orient our collectors. Download Introduction to Here As Now or read the text below:
The five artists included in Here, As Now create a unique space through their artwork as a detour from the space of daily life that we commonly inhabit. Within the limits of the painting’s edge, these spaces are a condensation of the subject matter that the artist has chosen to focus on through the specific nature of their art practice. For Katherine Desjardin, this departure point for abstraction is the commercial, industrial, and agricultural life of a city. Michelle Bolinger’s artwork draws on a complex vision of three dimensional forms, lines, and fields that interact within an imaginary space only to gradually be given a fixed two-dimensional form through an almost archeological approach to excavating and revealing through painting. John Lyon takes his own past paintings as his subject matter and uses digital collage techniques to create new possibilities. While Michelle Bolinger may begin within an invisible sculptural space as a point of departure, Michelle Wasson begins with surreal space filled with ideas, emotions, and distorted figures. This space gradually takes form through the act of painting that very often includes references to the process and images of painting itself. We might even begin to imagine a situation in which the painting could paint itself. Nemeth, on the other hand, begins with the void of the blank canvas without preconceptions, but with an eye to the natural world that surrounds her. Objects, voids, absences, light, and crevices emerge that begin to structure the canvas and create an artwork that, like the other artists, draws on the tradition of modernism while offering a contemporary rendering of the landscape we inhabit, albeit via the abstraction of personal experience and memories.
The result of this approach to abstraction from an initial subject is both a specific relationship to this underlying subject rendered as a style of painting unique to the artist and a specific understanding of subjectivity more broadly. In doing so, they create an opportunity for us to consider how the artist relates to the world as subject of their work as well as how they understand themselves as subject within a broader world of objects that are at times familiar, at others foreign, and sometimes incomplete. Through this understanding, they are able to define their own subjective power that anchors their broader investigation. It is this dynamic back and forth between acting as part of the world and analyzing the world that allows them each to re-create a hybrid world that oscillates between subjective and objective. These paintings trace the intense amount of time both in the studio and in the world that is required for creation and offer the viewer a route by which they too can explore the relationship between interior and exterior, individuality and collective experience. They offer a space to contemplate this unique capacity of the medium of paint in a way that remains somewhat mysterious and perhaps even magical.
In order to accomplish the creation of such a space, the artists have each spent considerable time honing the process by which they create their artwork. For each artist, this has involved a critical engagement with the medium of painting itself that questions assumptions about how the medium is used and what it can express. For Desjardin and Lyon, this has involved introducing photography, digital collage, masking, and a complex relationship between figure and ground. Desjardin, in particular, draws upon durational engagement with the life of the city and forms of urban art such as graffiti. Bolinger often uses sanding and scraping to reveal earlier layers of the process. Nemeth creates incredibly dense moments within the canvas that are juxtaposed with crevices that are portals into a space in-between reality and imagination. Wassen utilizes thin layers of paint as washes that can add an almost endless series of layers to her paintings that hide and reveal various elements of the composition.
It is this process of abstraction through practice that ties all five of the artists together and what creates a space that fixes and marks the time that the artist has invested in the creation of the artwork. The paintings that result create a full moment rich with presence that commands attention. However, the artwork is not just a representation of this time or of an underlying subject matter. It is an event that stands out here and now in a meaningful manner. The artwork is, in this sense, a break from the space of the everyday and from the standard flow of events that we take for granted. It is a departure point for experiencing an alternative set of spatial and temporal laws. Experiencing this alternative might help to shed light on the complexity of our lives, the dynamic relationships and connections that form, and the constraints of the spatial, social, political, and economic world that we occupy.
This occurs, however, specifically through the medium of paint and as tied to its long tradition. Like so many of the great painters of the past whose artwork Zygman Voss has exhibited since opening, this collection of artists straddle the divide between subject and object and, in doing so, trace a feeling, emotion, experience, or idea that might serve as the painting’s origin. This idea ultimately is something that the viewer feels, but that cannot necessarily be seen. The viewer must be content with the invisible idea and the painting as a trace that renders an approximation. This invisibility, however, supports different conceptions of what this underlying idea might be and allows for each individual viewer to have their own evolving relationship both to the artwork and to the artwork as a tool that frames the world in which we live. These artworks go beyond simply making a new space that is colorful, interesting, and dynamic and actually create a place that we the viewer feel that we can inhabit, if perhaps only for the limited time that we direct our full attention towards its surface here, in the gallery, for now.