Galerie Tangerine | Through July 6
WORDS Sara Lee Burd
Amanda Joy Brown and Katherine Wagner both approach memory from a distance, capturing the essence of the experience rather than focusing on traditional mimetic representation. While they agree that photography has its place within their lives, neither artist is beholden to what they see; rather they practice ways of processing their remembrances into unique works of art steeped in imagination.
The artists met when presenting their work at the 2017 group exhibition Otherworldly hosted at Ground Floor Gallery. Fascinated by their overlapping interests in art, the two noted that one day they should have a two-person show together. Ruche, on display now through July 6 at Galerie Tangerine, is where that seed of an idea came to fruition.
Annette Griffin, and Lilli Robinson, Brown and Wagner curated a flow to introduce gallery visitors to the art of each. They wove their works together into alternating patterns creating thoughtful juxtapositions. Based on their aesthetic predispositions for repetition, color, and texture, the resulting exhibition enlivens the gallery space, while each work also begs for slow contemplation.
Brown’s artworks are part of her Patternscapes series that began in paint on canvas creating a shorthand to represent natural elements; they were flat with the exception of the thick tar gel patterns, which provided literal dimension on the surface of the artwork. In the work on display at Galerie Tangerine she maintains the preciseness of gesture and plays with elements such as translucent textiles to approach depth in a new way. In these works, she incorporates details that stand out to her from places she has been and qualities of nature she observes. Gathering bits and pieces of inspiration, Brown expresses her memory through material.
The artist explains that she developed an interest in working from memory while in a Chinese painting class in graduate school at Savannah College of Art and Design, saying that “a lot of the masters of Chinese painting would sit and absorb the thing they wanted to paint—a plum blossom, a chrysanthemum . . . and other natural elements. They’d observe it, the character of it, the nature of it, how it grew. Then they wouldn’t do a directly observational painting; they would take that information back and try to embody the character of it.”
Nocturnal Evergreen exemplifies Brown’s academic use of color theory to achieve sophisticated optical effects.
“Both Brown and Wagner pursue similar questions about memory, and their unique approaches to art-making provide multiple aesthetic answers.”
The dark-blue, sheer cloth overlaying the painted surface creates an impression of the night sky. Folds in the fabric articulate diagonal shades of dark and light comprehended by the mind as moonbeams. The painted surface employs complementary color combinations created in hues produced by Brown. Applied in at least seven layers, the dripped pigment builds up on the panel only to be sanded away into a smooth plane. The effects she achieves activate the painting, which appears nearly black, but is actually a blending of tightly overlapping reds and greens. That the panel vibrates although shrouded by the filter of the flowing blue cloth is a lesson Brown learned studying and practicing painting.
Composing with textiles and clear tar gel in her works, Brown is able to suggest fluidity in media. In Blue Space, she recalls a trip to Lake Michigan with her mother. The resulting artwork reveals her attention to subtle wave movements explored through diaphanous material, color blending, and mark making. The repetition of each linear application of the tar gel creates an exactness that falls away as the medium dries. The horizontality of the gestures and hues of blue contrasting with golden peach nod to the changing light and movement Brown observes in nature.
Wagner employs color, specifically a limited palette, to inspire her art-making around themes of childhood memory in her latest series, Warped Fabric. Describing the impetus of the challenge she set out upon, the artist says, “Color has always scared me. It started out as a test for myself . . . just do it, go two feet into it. I obviously enjoyed it.”
She creates her own colors, blending them from the basic tubes of paint from the art supply store. To create a group of tones for each painting, she applies the basic rules of the color wheel, which she encountered during her BFA studies at the University of Tennessee. The work exemplifies both her technical skill and attention to detail, her heroic action stemming from her efforts to surpass what she was able to do before. She says, “I’m trying to mix a color that I might not see, and getting it to a place where I’m satisfied with it and its relationship with the past.”
Applying the paint in color combinations that may not correspond to how they appeared in reality, she presents what is brought forward from her imagination. Building art as she works in obsessive detail, she constructs mixed-media works such as Beach Vacation employing fabric, hot glue, and acrylic paint. While the casual observer may not immediately sense an escape to the sea, it is in Wagner’s mind.
Memories take shape in her paintings as she blends the selected hues with textures from fabrics into each composition. Wagner collects fabrics that interest her and stretches them into panels for paintings. The size of many of her works is determined by the size of the original cloth. Perusing the sides of each work of art is its own adventure. The artist plays with expectations such as leaving lush velvets untouched, printed florals peeking through paint, or delicately rendered illusions of texture made with her own brushstrokes.
In moments of clarity after the art is created, she develops words to describe what was conjured into the work of art. With titles such as Bedtime Anxiety, Jelly Shoes, Me and Sarah and the Rope Swing, and The Fancy Woman, Wagner calls attention to the simple notions, childlike in tone, that appear in her visually complex paintings.
Both Brown and Wagner pursue similar questions about memory, and their unique approaches to art- making provide multiple aesthetic answers. These works benefit from being viewed in person as the effects of light and perspective can be most enjoyed in three dimensions. The artists’ focus on craft and technical skill, combined with their personal expressions of memory, provides space for gallery goers to consider their own memories as they perceive the artists’ recollections of something passed.
Ruche will be on exhibition at Galerie Tangerine through July 6. For more information, visit www.galerietangerine.com.