Cumberland Gallery | Through June 2
In her second show at Cumberland Gallery, Raphaëlle Goethals presents a recent series of signature large- scale encaustic paintings. Born in Brussels, Goethals enjoyed her initial formal education in Belgium, moved to the United States in 1981, and currently resides in New Mexico. These geographical locations and their rich history of painting can be felt in Goethals’ work: the glazed layers of early devotional Flemish painting, the light and glowing colors of the desert landscape in the Southwest, and the influence of American artists such as Clifford Still, Richard Serra, and Brice Marden.
Goethals’ signature medium for almost twenty years is encaustic—an ancient medium that combines ground pigments, heated beeswax, and resin. The malleability and translucency of the wax component allow the artist to brush, scrape, and reapply material, registering a visual memory of the art-making process. This notion of memory is conceptually central to Goethals’ work: “I believe we have in our cellular memory an inner awareness of a universal language. And our artistic mind is made up of a mosaic of thoughts and images collected over the years, which can then be forgotten or put aside to reach the emptiness from which new work can manifest itself.”
Moving simultaneously in opposite directions, Goethals’ encaustics are the ultimate blurring of boundaries. On the one hand, her artwork is about integrating memory, accumulating material, mark making and history, allowing persona, expression, and complexity. On the other hand, the artist distills radically, erases anything referential, and moves towards simplicity, a universal minimalism, a point zero. Goethals’ paintings are the visualization of an existential gray zone, a place of uncertainty, vulnerability, and contemplation. The artist transports the viewer to this holistic in-between stage by reformulating the constituents of painting as similar quintessential dualities: flat surface versus deep space, precision versus ambiguity, material versus ethereal, the grid-like composition of brightly colored dots versus animated, formative fields of homochromatic hues. As such, Goethals’ art shows the viewer how the self-reflection of painting mirrors a spiritual turn inwards.