Saturday, June 11, 2016

Finding a Nexus

Finding a Nexus

By Tom Wachunas

    nex•us (ˈnɛk səs)

n., pl. nex•us•es, nex•us.

1. a means of connection; tie; link. / 2. a connected series or group. /3. the core or center, as of a matter or situation. / 4. a specialized area of the cell membrane involved in intercellular communication and adhesion. [From the Latin nexus - a binding, joining, fastening, derivative of nect(ere) to bind, fasten] / Citation: Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


     “Picasso was the first person to produce figurative paintings which overturned the rules of appearance; he suggested appearance without using the usual codes, without respecting the representational truth of form, but using a breath of irrationality instead, to make representation stronger and more direct; so that form could pass directly from the eye to the stomach without going through the brain.”   - Francis Bacon

    EXHIBIT: Vibrant Intuitions, paintings by Tina Meyers, at the Little Art Gallery, located in the North Canton Public Library, THROUGH JULY 9, 2016 / 185 N. Main Street, North Canton, Ohio  330.499.4712  Ext. 312

   The above quote from painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is particularly apropos to this exhibit on a few levels, which I’ll elaborate upon shortly. First, though, I point out that Bacon’s assessment of Picasso’s originality was a bit too generous if not inaccurate. While it’s true that Picasso radically transformed traditional 2D representation early in the 20th century along with his cohort, Georges Braque, in their invention of Cubism, he acknowledged the significant influence of his predecessor, Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), whom he called on more than one occasion, “the father of us all.” It was Cezanne’s late-19th century quest for “a new optic” that would ultimately set the stage for the revolution of pictorial form that became Modernist painting.

   Looking at the 32 works here by Tina Meyers, most of them acrylic paintings that span the past two years (she’s a remarkably prolific artist), I wonder if she has asked herself on many occasions the same question that Cezanne repeatedly embraced: Can a painting convey a sense of natural solidity and depth without depending on the academic conventions of illusionism?

   It’s interesting to note that Meyers is self-taught. So was Francis Bacon. As she tells us in her statement for this exhibit, her work is a “therapeutic process” wherein her pictures evolve over time. It’s an intuitive process – you could call it a self-correcting response to her own abstract mark-making – that can allow relatively identifiable images to emerge. The resultant surfaces, while not seething with impasto paint textures, have a subtly tactile and layered physicality. And it’s that ideological arc of immediacy - of being in the moment of putting paint to surface, of seeing a mark and progressively responding to it with another mark or a broad swath of color or a simple line – that conceptually aligns Meyers’ approach with, among other influences, Abstract Expressionism. 

    So it is that some of her figural pieces, such as “Night Swimmer” and “Solitude,” or nature images such as “May Flowers,” exude an intensely gestural and spontaneous energy. Brushstrokes have a swept or blurred look similar to that which haunts so many of Francis Bacon’s paintings.

   Then again, many other pieces, including “Disagreement” and “Canopy,” clearly demonstrate Meyers’ Cubist sensibilities. And like the Cubists, Meyers seems cognizant to varying degrees in such works of Cezanne’s employment of color “passages” – planes of color that both fade away from and meld with surrounding areas.

   Meyer’s handling of pictorial space, however, significantly differs from that of Cezanne or the Cubists, who opted to fully integrate objects with their “backgrounds.”  Her renderings of specific things or figures generally have a constructed, even “sculpted” feel in that they’re autonomous, volumetric occurrences (an exception being the geometric abstraction in the enigmatically titled “Advices”), standing on somewhat undefined, shallow, though very painterly, “fields.” Sometimes her use of black lines (ink pen or Sharpie) to trace a contour or reinforce a texture feels like a too-cute and precious afterthought - an unnecessary intrusion on the overall dynamic of the picture.

   That said, those are relatively minor glitches in the otherwise memorable and unique aesthetic dialect that Tina Meyers has adopted. In doing so, she has effectively fashioned a seductive nexus of Modernist sources.  

    PHOTOS, from top: May Flowers / Disagreement / Canopy / Solitude / Advices

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