Monday, January 07, 2019

Art Review: Ivy Jacobsen/Andrew Wapinski

Ivy Jacobsen, Peace Within (2018)
Enter “Nature’s Poems,” the new show of Ivy Jacobsen paintings at the Patricia Rozvar Gallery in downtown Seattle, and you are immediately struck by their beauty and vividness.  Plant life is her subject, but these are not still lifes.  Neither are they landscapes.  The backgrounds are of various striking but muted colors.  They’re misty, cloudy, dreamlike.  There’s a haze in the air.  And from the edges of the canvas in creep various vines, flowers, tree boughs, leaves, etc.  “Creep” is the right word; they seem to have the vitality - and sometimes even the consciousness - of moving creatures.  

As you look at the paintings you notice even more plants in the distance.  These paintings are layered.  The more you look, the more they reveal.  They visually unfold before you.  That layering is not just metaphorical either.  By using a combination of oils and resin, mostly on wood panels, Jacobsen creates various degrees of translucency and opaqueness.  On a few of the paintings, such as Peace Within (above), she actually places translucent painted layers on top of each other, thus creating real depth of vision.  I found the effect compelling, even hypnotic.  No reproduction, by the way, can do these works justice.  They must be seen directly to get the full effect.  For example, the small, colorful buds/leaves which adorn some of the flowers are in reality bright, thick daubs of paint which stick out from the surface.  When first seen they are an explosion of vibrancy and color.

Ivy Jacobsen, Vespertine (2018)

Jacobsen has admitted to being influenced by Japanese wood-block prints, and at first glance one would think that a Japanese or Chinese poem would be right at home in the lower left corner of Peace Within, but it would not.  It would clutter the painting.  The poem, or statement, if you prefer, is the painting itself.  I love these works.  I could get lost in the them for a long time.  Rest your eye anywhere on the vegetation of the haunting Vespertine (above) and soon your gaze is wandering along the tree limbs and clusters of leaves.  Things change.  Look at the foliage and your eyes are drawn to the empty space; look at the empty space and they're drawn back to the foliage.  The diminishing limbs become vein-like, some of them don’t behave like real tree limbs at all.  These aren’t really plants.  But no matter.  One keeps looking, exploring, drifting (what’s with that ominous darkness in the upper left?).  I said that these paintings are not landscapes, but there is something “scape”-like about them; one wanders through them, one inhabits them.  If the words weren’t so clumsy perhaps “reverie-scape” or “meditation-scape” would be the best way to describe them.  But whatever word you choose, viewing them is a memorable experience.  The show runs to January 31st.

Andrew Wapinski, Untitled XIV (2018)
Foster/White Gallery has new works by Andrew Wapinski - large, stark black and white paintings such as Untitled XIV (right).  Made using pigmented ice, acrylic, ink, and graphite on mounted linen panels these paintings are monumental studies in texture and technique.  As best one can tell, a linen-mounted canvas is laid on the ground and a layer of white gesso (a plaster) is applied to it.  Then the pigmented ice is placed on top.  As it melts, the pigment soaks into the gesso and linen forming the dark globule shape in the center.  The artist then scrapes off portions of the gesso to create the rough texture.  This process may be repeated several times to enrich the appearance of the pigment.  

Frankly, these paintings do nothing for me.  I think the artist was more taken by the technique of creating them than was warranted by the actual outcome.  Although there are several different paintings, they all look the same.  It’s monotonous.  If there were a video of the artist at work on these I would’ve watched that with eager interest, but the paintings themselves leave me cold (joke unintended).  Still, if getting lost in these sorts of paintings is your cup of tea you have until January 26th to drink your fill.   

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