Friday, September 2, 2011

Empyreal Energies

Empyreal Energies
By Tom Wachunas

“Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of wind.” – Maxwell Bodenheim –

“There is a muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind.” –Annie Dillard-

Even though Hurricane Irene’s recent reign over newsprint, TV, and cyberspace (not to mention the Eastern U.S. coastline) has been downgraded to last week’s news, I’m never too far from nature’s power to hold me in awe - even if indirectly, as in looking at art inspired by that power. Case in point: the current show of paintings by Nancy Seibert in the Main Hall gallery at the Kent State University Stark campus.

The show’s title – “Internal Powers” – is apropos not just because Seibert draws her pictorial inspiration from the atmospheric and earthy nuances of summer and autumn, but because the works are manifestations of the power of the artist’s intuition in generating her ethereal visions. Who can catch the wind indeed? These paintings, while suggesting seasonal light, color, and airy motion (without being literal illustrations), are also intriguing, visceral evidence of an ephemeral, abstract process.

Most of that evidence rises from variable paint viscosities and textures, combined with real sensitivity to gestural brush marks. Yet for all of the apparent hand manipulation of her materials, the resulting imagery looks more spontaneous than self-conscious, as if a passing gust of wind or an ocean wave deposited these configurations on to their surfaces. So Seibert’s technique has allowed her to frame essences, imbuing her surfaces with a sense of transient physicality. These are translations of immanent, changeable weather, and otherwise elegant impressions of both celestial and earthen flux.

Among the works on view is a series of five paintings - under the collective title “High Spirits” - executed on masonite- mounted paper. In a way they look like refined studies for larger projects. The amorphous imagery doesn’t bleed out to the picture plane edges as it does in her larger canvas pieces, and thus floats ambiguously in a tentative, liquid state.

But in the canvas works, there is a compelling sort of resolution and balance between liquid, gaseous, and solid states. Tactile trails of the brush movements combine, intertwine, or collide with larger passages of paint that’s been stained, blotted and layered into the picture plane, sometimes leaving little bits raw canvas still visible. The net visual effect, even with a palette as largely soft and pale as seen here (with just a few exceptions), is one of energetic motion emerging from subtly dramatic depths.

And in their studied contrasts of frenetic swells and swirlings with organized moments of visual quietude, there’s still an almost primordial serenity at work in each of the paintings. Loud silence, or silent noise? Like an ancient Zen garden.

Photo: “Effervescence” – mixed media and collage by Nancy Seibert, on view through September 23. Gallery at Main Hall, Kent State University Stark campus. Viewing hours are 11am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 10am to Noon on Saturday.

No comments: