Thursday, December 16, 2010

Your thumbprints are on the paintwork...

We've been taking Myrna to play at the Kulturhuset for some time, but it's only in the past several weeks that we've taken advantage of the arts studio in the back. It's terrific. They have a full stock of paints, brushes, smocks, and easels. And, crucially, it's no big thing if paint finds its way onto floor or furniture - something you can't always say about home.

An avid colorer, Myrna plunged right into the new expressive prospects afforded by painting. Her earliest work with paint was characterized by heavy brushwork, dense fields of earthy color, and gritty impasto. Though her work to date falls in the realm of the abstract, there's more than a passing similarity in her first work to the hues and application of paint found in the portraits Myrna refers to as Modigliani's "Mamas." Perhaps a legacy of her 2008-2009 residency in Cologne, Myrna additionally liked to cut into the wet paint with pencil or with the back tip of a brush handle à la Gerhard Richter. These disquieted scratches, combined with the clay reds of the paint, give the below composition a brooding, anxious quality that belies the giggly enthusiasm that went into its making.

If I have one criticism of this painting, it's that the thick application of paint led to a dampness-warping of the paper that's made it difficult to properly display.

It's telling that, for sketches and studies at home, Myrna's shifted from thick crayons to soft color pencils. Her latest painting - finished just yesterday - follows suit. There are links to earlier work - a concentration on the right side of the composition, for example - but here she opts for a lighter touch and airier mood. The handling color is more considered, and the lion's share of Myrna's creative process is now devoted to the mixing of colors to meet her acute demand. This is no doubt a product of Myrna's growing understanding of color. She spends much of the day pointing out the pinks, reds, blues, yellows, and greens of the world around her. And, more and more, these correspond to the adult world's chromatic taxonomy. The brighter feel of this latest piece probably also benefited from the unfussy approach Myrna took to painting it. Far from over-thinking the finished product, she completed this one in half the time needed for her first painting. This time she was, it seemed, very eager to wash her hands and brushes in the row of toddler-level sinks she'd discovered on her last visit to the studio.

It's tricky gaining a concrete foothold on Myrna's work and methods, given the abstract nature of the compositions and her reluctance to discuss her art in any satisfactory detail. I took a stab, though. "What are you thinking about," I asked her as she added a few rapid pencil accents to her last piece. Her answer was enigmatic, but certainly in character. "Ducks," she said blithely, reaching for a brush and resuming her work as though no longer aware that I was in the room.

1 comment:

Aaron Burkhalter said...

Are you sure that last piece wasn't an homage to her uncle's alma mater and the football teams entry into the BCS championship?