criticismExhibitions
Sunday, December 7th, 2014

A Philosophy of Form: In Vicky Colombet, Abstraction and Nature Meet on Equal Terms


Vicky Colombet: Earth at Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery

October 22 to December 19, 2014
648 Broadway, Suite 804, between Great Jones and Bond streets
New York City, 212.268.3628

Installation shot:  Vicky Colombet, Earth series # 1314, 2014. Oil, pigment, alkyd wash on canvas, 76 x 60 inches.  Courtesy of Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery

Installation shot: Vicky Colombet, Earth series # 1314, 2014. Oil, pigment, alkyd wash on canvas, 76 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery

Vicky Colombet asks us to suspend disbelief. Her skill at creating something that we can read only with difficulty, while suggesting that it is in fact a picture of something, demands in return an effort on the part of the viewer that allows us to experience her painting in an open way.  Her paintings at Christian Duvernois work both as pure abstraction and as studies of nature. They can manage to seem resolutely nonobjective while conveying the weight of a study of mountains or stone. In fact, her philosophy of form can be said to occupy a point where abstraction and nature meet.

The French-born American artist has lived in New York for fifteen years, more recently dividing her time between the upstate and the city. Developing an imagery of unusual, complex beauty, her art evokes historical Chinese landscape paintings with their extraordinary insights into nature.

In a beautiful black-and-white triptych, Earth Series #1304, #1305, and #1306, (2014), the artist has painted what truly looks like photographs, with each of the three small paintings worked up in white on a black ground. The pictures are remarkable for their intricate and enigmatic renderings of what can be read as cross-sections or x-rays of human tissue. The forms radiate jaggedly across the space of the composition, functioning as an allover imagery that draws us into its tangles, splotches, and curved ridges.  Dense accumulations of mark making are counterbalanced by large areas of negative space. Colombet consistently works in the intersection between painting and photography; she includes a suite of manipulated photo images in the show as well.

Vicky Colombet, Earth series # 1310, 2014. Oil, pigment, alkyd wash on canvas, 78 x 78 inches.  Courtesy of Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery

Vicky Colombet, Earth series # 1310, 2014. Oil, pigment, alkyd wash on canvas, 78 x 78 inches. Courtesy of Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery

Colombet, who makes her own colors using natural gem and earth pigments, is working out a language that owes its power to nature and the sublime. The shift of the imagery’s movement is usually upward, suggesting transcendence through nature. The angle might be that of a mountain rising toward its apex, while the intricacies of the brushwork intimate a detailed view—as if one were looking at the individual strokes of paint with a microscope. Additionally, the artist is showing a group of cloud photographs, taken with her iPhone. These photos work out a nice correspondence with the photograph-like paintings found in Colombet’s show. The low-resolution shots were printed on vellum and allowed to dry over time. They seem nearly to fluctuate in movement, a result based on the rough edges of the ink.

Earth Series #1314 (2014), a large painting on her typically unprimed linen, has a complex mass of blue forms occupy the lower three-quarters of the picture. Entanglement is key to the painting’s structure, which builds upward in fractured shards. As in the triptych, nature is suggested in this picture by what might be a massive cliff, whose rock face is composed of myriad facets, making the surface intricate nearly beyond description.

Earth Series #1310 (2014) employs a similarly active surface, this time with black paint. The mass of shard-like shapes angles upward toward the right, giving the general feeling of a high ascent.  The eye travels up the painting, with the left half of the composition, a compelling negative space, representing the void. Colombet’s singular vision juggles the opposition of representation and abstraction. The notable intelligence of her art is, indeed, based upon an objective, nearly scholarly research into the relations between the two.  Vicky Colombet extends our knowledge of art’s ability to communicate effects that are inherently mysterious but truly compelling as things to see.

Vicky Colombet, Earth series: Triptych # 1304/5/6, 2014. Oil, pigment, alkyd wash on canvas, each 7-3/4 x 5-3/4 inches.  Courtesy of Christian Duvernois Landscape/Gallery

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  • http://www.ericholzman.com eric holzman

    Beautiful review.
    Enlightening to me though I have been looking at Vicki’s painting for years.
    Eric