Monday, January 11, 2010

Reading layers

In response to the last post Kathy noted that:
art primarily deals with "spaces in between." That is, we all observe what's around us and use it to inform our art, but we have to find connections that aren't obvious in order to make our work meaningful. Those "connections" occur somewhere between the realm of reality and our imaginations. Those are what I would call the "spaces in between." there is a space between our original perception of reality and how we represent this in our work.

It seems there are many" in between" spaces in art. A common one is the use of layers to build up a painting. There is also the use of negative space as a compositional device. Tanja Softic uses both in her work.

Morning over there (2008) 15 x 36 in. acrylic, graphite, chalk on paper mounted on board

Last year I was excited to find the work of Tanja Softic as I was researching various artists who cite memory as a driving force in their work. Since that time I've visited her website several times and each time I come away with new insights into her work.

Tanja is an associate professor of art at The University of Richmond, but she was raised in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. While she was earning her MFA in the United States, war broke out in her homeland permanently changing the pattern of her life.

In her words:

My work addresses factors of cultural hybridity that shape the identity and world view of an immigrant: exile, longing, translation, and memory.

.....The visual vocabulary of my drawings and prints suggests a displaced existence: fragmented memories, adaptation, revival, and transformation. Because I do not live and work within the comfort or boundaries of the culture in which I first learned to observe, interpret and engage the world, I have the arguable privilege of having lived more than one life. My memory is my virtual self and, paradoxically, my most authentic self.

Her references to memory as a "process that involves erosions and accretions" strikes a cord with me as I construct my paintings for Reading a Garden 18 months after my two week stay in Birr Castle Demesne. I am amazed at how quickly I forget specific details and how easily I embellish others and believe them to be true. Softic sums it up well.

" Re-membering becomes an act of reconstruction, where one works with what is there and tries to visualize what has been lost.

The images in Softic's more recent works suggest what Said called "an awareness of simultaneous dimensions." The maps and star charts represent conventional interpretations of distance and scale. Softic says:

I am interested in what they may become, layered upon each other, in visual conversations with other elements in the drawing. In Migrant Universe, the drawings function as re-arrangeable continuum of maps, landscapes and portraits of memory and identity.

The map of what happened below is part of the Mirgrant Universe series.

Add ImageThe map of what happened (2008) acrylic, chalk, graphite on paper on board 60 x 120

Nomad's polyphony (2004) 42 x 108 in. acrylic, charcoal, chalk on handmade paper

While I have found several different bodies ofSoftic's work and critical discussion of it, I was first attracted to the pods, orchid blooms and shells mixed with body organs and bones all juxtaposed with geometric shapes and architectural details.

Allegory of time (2000) 58 x 52 in. acrylic, charcoal, chalk on paper

The layers are complex but negative space exists within and top of the surface which has the ability to both calm and command the viewer. Her work has a dreamlike quality that provides a sense of past and present displayed together. Drawing and printmaking allow her to build up layers of subtle colour and texture. I like the way some of the objects recur in varying combinations throughout different works. David Bickman 2003 noted that "She combines the skill of a medical or botanical illustrator with the soul of a poet to make extremely detailed drawings that are nothing if not evocative."

Porous histories (2005) 15 x 48 in. etching and mezzotint

Perhaps you would like to look at the work of my friend, Catherine Beaudette, who has a summer home in Duntara near where we live. Catherine teaches at Ontario College of of Art and Design. Look at her Recent Works and read her artist statement. You will see why.


Mary Paquet said...

Margaret, the breadth of your art knowledge and your beautiful writing makes visiting you a blog a very educational experience. Thanks so much for pointing us to this artist.

hwfarber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hwfarber said...

I'm familiar with Softic's work; her Migrant Universe pieces are wonderful.

(It's late--I messed up my previous comment.)

Kathy said...

Fascinating work! I'm captivated by Softic's creations and explanations. Thank you, Margaret, for featuring this artist and for an eloquent presentation.

Kim Hambric said...

Margaret, Thank you so much for introducing me to this artist. I'm looking forward to more exploration of her work.

Each one of us is a organism of layers and omissions. I thoroughly enjoy looking at the work of an artist who can put this into a visual sense.

Bull Rhino said...

It must be amazing to be able to create such beauty and to understand how it works. I envy you.

I just stopped by to say "Hi" since you are one of the followers of my Photography blog. I hope it's not too late to wish you a fantastic 2010!


Anonymous said...

Margaret, I don't have anything specific to comment on this post- except it is informative and lovely as usual! Just wanted to say thank you for all your effort and artistry in blog land. You are appreciated.

Four Seasons in a Life said...

Greetings Margaret,

I am going to have to add your link also to art education in the Directory as you and Kathy are doing a fabulous job.

Your insights, experiences and resources you share with us is greatly appreciated.

Wishing you a wonderful day,

Margaret Ryall said...

I'm blushing. The last thing I have is breadth of art knowledge. I've been puttering along in my own way trying to fill the gaps left by the last 35 years. I'm glad you are finding the posts interesting.

Lucky you to have seen Softic's work. I know from past experiences that the real thing is always so much better.

You're welcome. I can only aspire to the level of stimulation your blogs offers me.

What a lovely way to describe an individual .... "an organism of layers and omissions". I think Softic's work does indeed represent your thought.

I'm honoured to be included in your directory. I had a good poke around the other night and found several artists of interest. Your directory is a valuable resource.

Thank you for dropping by. I'm enjoying your photographs.

Thank you for your compliment. I'm enjoying your thoughtful posts on Kathy's site. Like me, I think your wheels are turning fast as you find the place art plays in your life.

ArtPropelled said...

Oh Softic's work is intriguing! "an awareness of simultaneous dimensions" .... I like that.
I enjoyed Catherine Beaudette's work too and loved some of her installations.

Shayla said...

I reacted strongly to her work. Thanks for aqainting me with her. Her way of speaking about her work is also outstanding.