Visual Art Julianna Thibodeaux 'Beach With Red' by Tamar Kander, whose work is on view at RUschman Art Gallery Tamar Kander: Recent Works Ruschman Art Gallery Through June 3 There’s a vase of flowers on our dining room table that was once identifiable as irises. Now, it’s an abstraction of irises … their purple petals have all but disappeared, curled in on themselves like tiny fists, faded to a milky grey purple, angry looking stumps rather than flowers. And yet, if you look closer, there’s a certain beauty to the abstraction of what once was, as if nature, rather than rejecting its own, glorifies it in another way so we can appreciate its beauty anew — as a composition of interpreted form and quieted color. This is how I see abstract paintings. You can’t see what the artist originally saw; you’re seeing an interpretation, a riff on something recognizable. In the case of Tamar Kander, whose recent works are on view at Ruschman Art Gallery, her abstractions are so totally interpretive as to be fanciful. The landscape that she calls her inspiration is all but gone — utterly unrecognizable to us, except as it lives again in her own memory and finds expression through her paintbrush or palette knife. Pablo Picasso once said, “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Kander’s new paintings appear as a series of pages from her journal: individually associative abstractions that are most often lovely but sometimes contain unpleasant elements. Such is the nature of our interior thought processes, and in the case of art, something unpleasant — like the flowers on my table descending farther into decomposition — can also be something beautiful, or at the very least, natural, inevitable. Kander’s diary pages reflect a particular experience. She was born in Israel and grew up there as well as in South Africa, so the collective memory she draws upon is likely in contrast to mine or yours. But there’s something common to us also. Recalling Kander’s work from years past, I am struck by the continuity of her expression: neutral tones in broad patches with punctuation marks of color peeking through murky clouds of grey and tan. But these new paintings are larger, more vivid, and seem to have a greater fluidity. Still, Kander explores the surface texture of paint media: swiping a finger through it, or some other tool, to reveal a thickness in gesso, say, or cold wax, even drywall compound. Paint brings these oppressively neutral materials to life, and their texture proffers an added depth that suggests something more than the decomposition of known forms. As Kander puts it, “My work is neither figurative nor abstract, rather I see it as a metaphor for experience.” It’s that diary page again: We have good days and bad, and more often neutral ones. These are Kander’s pages, but they’re also ours. We see ourselves, or our own experiences, in the occasional brilliant orange bursting from a prison of grey, or we fashion our own recognition of a beloved landscape from a cover of blue. Kander, who lives in Indiana but spends much of her time in the Southwest, would seem to have brought the livelier tenor of the Southern sun back with her. Her paintings are infused with a striving sort of brightness, but not an overwhelming one. The essences of past expressions continue to find voice. Recent Works by Tamar Kander is on view at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., through June 3. Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 317-634-3114 for more information.

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