Apr 122008

Andrea Kowch writes in her Mini Paintings blog about her impressions from some of these settings. She then channels them into visual descriptions. Several features distinguish the landscapes and outdoor scenes: reticent realistic palette; angles and slanting lines that accentuate the perspective and play a more symbolic role (see below) as well; joyful and vigorous treatment of space, despite the languorous scenery. But first and foremost these small pieces are about the atmosphere — one of reminiscence and reverie.

Time seems to have a strange effect on our perception of color, withering and bleaching it into bi- and monochromatic shadows of what it once was. It appears that time stands still in these paintings, and that it indeed does its grim job, discoloring the surroundings and the objects it touches. Although it may seem that such a rendering would “kill” the zest in the paintings, I think that a contrary reaction takes place: according to what the artist elaborates in her written passages, the “old look” evokes rich palettes of memories and past experiences, whether real or imaginary. Color does not just dissolve — it seeps into the deeper resources of our perception, through cracks that time opens in our minds.

The recurring visual motif of a slanting line may be seen as the coded sign that marks and instigates a descent into the abyss of memory. It appears in various forms and variations, but usually involves a tree, either a living, a dead or a processed one. It may be a slightly bent tree in the foreground, later to be substituted by a heavily bent one in a forest in the backdrop; a sloping roof, made of wooden boards, while the whole structure seems to lean back, or a sharp slope that forces a tree into an uncomfortable angle. The slants guide and push the audience “downstairs”, towards its subconscious or forgotten experiences; the general calm atmosphere ensures that the descent occurs without any hindrances and would generally evoke pleasant memories.

You might want to compare the houses to Tracy Helgeson’s barns. In a way the latter’s are the direct opposite: rich in color, they are vibrant, immediate and very much in the “now”; Andrea Kowch’s structures are retrospective and contemplative. It’s interesting to see how color acts as a chronological regulator — the less there is or the muter it is, the farther in time the artist seems to want to travel — and to sweep the audience along with her.

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