Reverberation at Cerulean Arts Gallery
I am late in posting this review. I was hoping to have it done before the exhibition ended. So, I am starting this review with the Artists' Talk from March 16th so that you have a better sense of the experience of visiting Reverberations and of the two artists whose works were part of this show-- Andrea Krupp and Lisa Sylvester.
Reverberations is the title of the exhibition of works on paper by artists Andrea Krupp and Lisa Sylvester at Cerulean Arts Gallery through March 24th. “Reverberation” is an interesting word to use in connection to these pieces. It is a term associated with sound—and, interestingly enough, many of these artworks incorporate text. It can also allude to echo, repercussion, and resonance. So, how do I see these effects in individual pieces and how do the individuals inform the relationship of the whole?
Overall, with just a general glance into the gallery, the character of each artist’s work is very different, but the approach to framing is similar and standard— plain, gray frames for Andrea Krupp’s work and white or natural wood for Lisa Sylvester’s. Both artists allowed their work to be the star not only by keeping the framing unremarkable but also by floating the paper inside the frame. Moreover, Sylvester’s light and
white framing allowed her smaller sized and busier compositions to expand while the middle-gray of Krupp’s frames not only contain but draw me into the tones of her monochromes. I only wish more artists were so careful and successful in their choices!
As for the artworks themselves, they are all works on paper. Andrea Krupp makes grayscale paintings; Lisa Sylvester uses colored pencil, graphite, and ink. Krupp’s paintings are larger and made up of broad, sometimes washy strokes. Sylvester’s are organized patterns of precisely drawn shapes in colored pencil with the tiniest of scripted words laid down as an overlay pattern. Yet, these works seem equally balanced to each other because Krupp’s black and whites have
many shades in between while Sylvester’s color comes from colored pencil, a more translucent medium so it feels fused to the paper. Additionally, Sylvester uses a limited palette in each piece-- either monochromes or analogous colors. So, in Sylvester’s work the color patterns become the mid-tones between the white of the paper and the
black ink of the continuous writing. But the shapes that form the ground are more than decoration or noise. They provide a
sense of light that shines through the writing making it (the script) feel more embedded, as in The Sound of Waves. Similarly, the use of black, white, and gray in Krupp’s paintings is complex. There are defined shapes in black, in white, and in gray that are arranged. But I notice in some of the black areas there are stenciled patterns. And some of the white areas stand alone or are washed over to become diffuse. Krupp’s application of paint to create areas of gray, her grouping and ordering of the different tones create light and atmosphere, and even a sense of perspective as in Arctic Imaginary.
Looking at individual pieces by each of these artists expands the characteristics of what Krupp and Sylvster do. In the series of paintings showing giant rock formations (Limestone Karst, Standing Stones, Burren Stones, and Say Nothing), each structure has an individual silhouette and value set against a surface that is brushed or rolled on in overlaps. The shapes of the rocks feel solid and I can see their hard edges. But the washed-on paint creates atmosphere, light and shadow—a barren beauty. In other works like We Are Great and Small (Extraction) and the aforementioned Arctic Imaginary, she reports both what she can see like an icecap and its reflection on the water and the underwater world that she imagines. Like Leonardo, this imagining comes from experience and study.
For example, Krupp has two paintings of a stone fort in a landscape. For a third, she leaves the ground level and gives us a direct, on-top-of, aerial view which she calls Stone Fort from Within (Embrace). The outer walls have a clenching grip on the interior which is described in a rectangle of many grays. A narrow, L-shaped slip of white is the only connection to the surrounding area. This does not feel like a kind embrace, rather, it feels powerful, trapping, and overwhelming.
Andrea Krupp has made her work of abstracted shapes, but there is a sense of place real but alien to me, and one that she feels passionately about. Why do I say this? She repeats motifs like the fort or a house (see the postcard image of "BOGBON") or land-forms over and over in a way that tries to get to something and express something. In this way her black and white paintings remind me not of Mark Rothko, who was known for the black, white, and gray paintings from late in his life, but Anselm Kiefer who used shapes as diverse as sunflowers, fields, waves, and interior rooms. Her encoded messages—familiar and clear letters not always positioned to be understood, made me think of his drawings, paintings, and prints where the title is fixed into the composition. Another artist I thought of looking at Krupp’s work was Anders Zorn, a late 19th, early 20th century Swedish painter of portraits and landscapes. The reason I thought of him was his palette, a limited one of black, white, ocher, and vermilion. With so much achieved using grayscale, I wonder what would happen with the introduction of ocher and red.
Lisa Sylvester, as mentioned earlier, uses limited palettes. In A Light Is Coming (see the postcard image) Sylvester builds and blends her red colored pencil to create variations of dark to light and light to dark on rectangles that are gridded up and down and across a rectangular page. V-shaped rays begin along the top of the center-point of the first three rows of rectangles; and are mirrored starting at the bottom center of the rows starting from the lower edge of the page. These thin strands recall the sense of paths of light and culminate to also create a pattern for a faceted stone or jewel. Indeed, “A Light Is Coming”! That the strands are a series of words, and I wish that my eyes had the visual acuity of the writer, but they do not. I can pick out a word here and there, but the title, at least for me, needs to be enough. So in my head I repeat the title while viewing the visuals of the words, crowded then spreading out, and feel the warmth—maybe of coming spring.
In other pieces, repeated shapes of circles, lozenge, or, as in the aforementioned A Light Coming, squares are used. In all the paintings, the shapes and the script are in different motiffs. Generally, the repeat pattern for the color shapes tend to be either rotation or reflection while the written element is some kind of tessellation. But Sylvester is careful to size the two so that they conform. Sometimes, as in The Very Thing, it feels somewhat expected because the shape of the color-field is the base-shape of the tesselation. Other times, as in Your Mouth or Queen, she changes up her choices or uses multiple systems of tessellation. In any case, the result is never boring and I look forward to the next iteration she comes up with.
Some of Lisa Sylvester’s works, like Quotadien, make me think of Islamic Art. But a piece like Descendants reminds me of looking through a microscope at budding yeast cells. I do not know if Sylvester is interested in mathematics and algorithms or biology and cellular
reproduction. Her attention to detail, careful technique, and love of pattern tell me that she is a master organizer looking to put the world right. And that reminds me of Owen Jones. Jones was a designer and architect best known for his contributions to the organization of the exhibits at the Crystal Palace and the design of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He researched patterns from around the world and his book, The Grammar of Ornament, is still well-regarded today.
Reverberations was on view until March 24th at Cerulean Arts. To see more works by Andrea Krupp and Lisa Sylvester, check outhttps://ceruleanarts.com/pages/reverberations . I also encourage you to watch their Artists' Talk at the beginning of this blog.