My recent work is focused on painting with small, ordinary objects such as switch plates. It invites an exploration of connections among attention, perception, formal aesthetics, functionality and beauty. Re-purposed objects never lose the traces of their specific history. At the same time, they are charged with the possibilities of re-interpretation.
My work also addresses relationships between art and today’s issues -- technology, obsolescence, waste, neuroplasticity (re-wiring), shifting perspectives, consciousness and impermanence. While my art practice grows from the tradition of painting, my conceptual approach stems from the lineage of artists questioning what constitutes art in context of current sensibilities, technologies and philosophies.
Painting with light, space and objects began with a repurposed window that I was exploring in a body of work. The window served as object, metaphor, mirror and lens opening into space. In this body of work, light radiates from, through and around panels, illuminating space, objects and mixed media painting. One of the first pieces in this series, “Reflection on a Pipe” (2013) addresses the relationship between images and things, referring to Magritte's painting La Trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe) (The Treachery of images [This is not a pipe]). A fluorescent light reflects on a re-purposed copper plumbing pipe while a reflection of light is painted in the form of a white rectangle on the pipe and a shadow image of the pipe is painted in bright yellow. Extension cords are both functional and formal elements within works and connecting pieces.
The Coachella series focuses on the physicality of materials, colors and marks. Untraditional strategies, intentional irregularities and funky materials are in active dialogue with aesthetic design sensibilities.
Surface texture evolved in relation to archetypal themes and specific, personal experiences/observations in the Purgatory series, which re-contextualizes the rich, layered imagery and themes of Dante’s The Divine Comedy into a contemporary and visual lexicon. The textures, colors and forms of “Purgatory” (oil and mixed media on wood, 2011; 82” x 54”) allude to Dante’s allegorical description of transformation through recognition and reconciliation of sins and virtues in the journey through Purgatory. “Adamantine” (white marble sand, plaster and oil paint, 2011; 42”x 30”), refers to the first of three steps leading up to Purgatory, and is about seeing ourselves as we really are. The scorched surface of “Perse” (burning on wood, 2011; 42”x 30”) is about the searing darkness of the second step, experienced when we see our shadows. In “Porphyry” (oil on wood, 2011; 42”x 30”), sheer red stokes on a naked wood panel convey the vibrant flame of faith and transformation in the third step. “Lethe” (oil, tar, marble sand and plaster on wood, 2011; 42”x 30”) reflects imagery of the dark, flowing river “thick with living green,” that washes away memories of sin in Earthly Paradise. “Empyrean” (oil, gesso, vellum and paper on wood, 2012; 42” x 30”) draws from the pure light, geometry and freedom in Paradise.
In contrast to the minimal sensibility of the work on wood, the linen series employs brightly colored mosaic-like paper fragments, thick paint and plaster. Personal and symbolic imagery meld with highly textured surfaces to re-contextualize Biblical and Buddhist literary source materials. In THE GARDEN (oil, collage and plaster on linen, 2010; 4 panels 82” x 145”), images of fertility and divinity emerge ambiguously from collaged fragments and thickly painted linear pathways. In SONG OF SONGS (oil and collage on linen, 2009; 3 panels, 82” x 76”), my personal images of heartbreak, freedom and re-connection merged with those of eastern and western archetypes. A bursting heart of death sparks a dancing torso, which opens to a tessellation of mosaic-like paper fragments that suggest faces and birds. “Mind dissolves into heart, heart dissolves into space, body becomes a shimmering field pulsating between fullness and emptiness” (The Radiance Sutras, translation by Lorin Roche of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Sutra 3). Graffiti-like writing on white plaster represents the texts. In MADONNA AND PROTEUS (oil, mixed media and collage on linen, 2008; 82” x 54”), the re-contextualized archetypal religious icon merges with my deeply felt experience of changing relationships between mother and child. Painted paper tessellation suggests Byzantine mosaics on white plaster, and a fish-like creature alludes to the shape-changing Greek sea-god, Proteus, and our capacity for transformation.
Printmaking in the 1970's with Nathan Oliviera was the beginning of my involvement with materials and processes beyond paints. Interacting with limestone, metal plates, acid, and engraving tools was as important as the images in my lithographs, etchings and monotypes. Figurative imagery was my window to work with the vitality of structure and flow, and enter into exploration of other abstract pictorial elements.
Laurie Katz Yehia
February 11, 2016