Monday, March 6, 2017

A Stream Felt and Born

A Stream Felt and Born

By Tom Wachunas

   “Abstract is not a style. I simply want to make a surface work. This is just a use of space and form: it's an ambivalence of forms and space.” - Joan Mitchell

   “You have to know how to use the accident, how to recognise it, how to control it, and ways to eliminate it so that the whole surface looks felt and born all at once. “ - Helen Frankenthaler

   “We must not be content to memorize the beautiful formulas of our illustrious predecessors. Let us go out and study beautiful nature.” - Paul Cezanne

   EXHIBIT: DELIBERATIONS – Paintings by Alyce Gottesman / Kent State University at Stark MAIN HALL ART GALLERY / 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, Ohio / THROUGH APRIL 7 (Gallery closed March 27-31 for Spring Break) / Viewing hours: Monday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

   Painter Thomas Cole once observed, “To walk with nature as a poet is the necessary condition of a perfect artist.” His landscapes, along with those from his Hudson River School cohorts, were spectacular embodiments of the Romantic-era Zeitgeist. Yet all of those breathtaking vistas and panoramas were but a brief phrase, as it were, among myriad volumes of painted works that surrendered to the allure of nature for their content. 

   While the hallowed tradition of rendering natural beauty via mimetic realism continues to this day, it was the advent of non-objective abstraction that freed painting to be more than an illusionistic window on superficial realities. An entirely new and liberating visual dialect enabled painters to transcend the limitations of making pictures “of a place,” and instead create surfaces that were discrete places unto themselves. When inspired by nature, such surfaces have the capacity to speak all the more powerfully of not just nature’s materiality, but its mystical essences as well. Abstraction at its most gripping, for both painter and viewer, is often an intuitive and otherwise adventurous progression from the prosaic to the poetic.

    Here then is a dialect in which Alyce Gottesman is remarkably fluent and engaging. For a closer look at her background and portfolio, I recommend clicking the link posted above. “…My consciousness became attuned to the rhythms of the seasons and the energy of nature,” she writes in her statement, and continues, “This stream became the basis of my painting…” 

   Collectively, the works gathered here certainly do suggest an extended stream of consciousness. With a variety of opaque and transparent materials (including ink, pigment dispersion, graphite, acrylic) applied to such surfaces as canvas, wood panels, and aluminum, you might consider her paintings as highly tactile metaphors for the ephemeral and visceral textures, structural intricacies, or processes we encounter in nature. There is a tangible presence in these works of dialoguing with the materials. Those materials, true to themselves, have their way, or seasons, if you will. For a while they may pool up on the surface, glowing, or flow and drip in wild, unrestrained arcs and frenetic tangles. But there’s always the mark of the artist’s hand, drawing over, under, or through these configurations as if to correct or redirect, to negotiate a path, to find a balance of chaos with calm, an equipoise of accident and purpose.

   Long before reading anything about Gottesman’s aesthetic, I was immediately struck by the musicality suggested in her paintings. And indeed, she writes, “…The other important influence on my work has been my lifelong appreciation of music. Working in the abstract, I feel like I am channeling the vigor and cadences of nature and music. Rhythms appear as drips and brushstrokes; colors and patterns are quiet, loud, energized, erratic…” I saw them as musical scores of a sort, replete with bold cadenzas and gentle refrains, electrifying crescendos, subtle harmonies mingled with expressive dissonances.

   Consider these words from Wassily Kandinski, one of the 20th century’s earliest explorers of non-objective abstraction:  A painter, who finds no satisfaction in mere representation, however artistic, in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art.”

   Alyce Gottesman’s paintings are compelling places where rhapsodies happen.

    PHOTOS, from top: 1. Aftershock; 2. The Dream of a New Day; 3. Blue Synapse; 4. Ancestral Paths; 5. Fire and Ice; 6. Transformation

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