A coronavirus sampler
By Alec Clayton
Art galleries and theaters being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, I am forced by boredom to review works in my own collection.
Becky Knold’s painting “Veiled Distance” has been hanging on my living room wall for years. Recently, I moved it to the bathroom where, to my surprise, I look at it much more often and more thoroughly. I stare at it and find myself being drawn into its veiled depths. (The title does not refer to social distancing and the wearing of masks; it was painted and given that title long before the present horror.)
I have never asked the artist about the media, but I assume from the appearance that it is acrylic on paper, a heavy paper with a simulated canvas surface.
“Veiled Distance” is a contemplative and mysterious painting. There are three flat black opaque shapes floating on the surface, with a background of loosely brushed, transparent, washes of watery paint in white, orange and pink. I italicize the word background to indicate it is not really background but rather the lively, atmospheric surface upon which and over and under which the black shapes are painted. We’re seeing here mysterious organic shapes in space—outer space or perhaps under water or wrapped in layers of transparent muslin, the veil of the title. The spatial ambiguities are fascinating. At top there is a circular shape that is only partially overlapped by the muslin veil, which opens up to a deep hole in space through which a fiery sunset sky can be seen. Below that is a heavy black shape that looks like something prehistoric. It brings to mind the slung bone in the opening scene of 2001: A Space Odessey. (Here’s a reminder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypEaGQb6dJk) The third black shape is also bone-like. It stands upright on the shores of an orange lake. This interpretation of abstract forms evoking water, sky and bone are perhaps but one of many possible interpretations. I wish you could see it in person, because a reproduction on a computer screen can’t possibly do it justice.
|"Riches Over Rags" mixed media on cardboard|
|"Cave Dweller" mixed media on cardboard|
This is an early Becky Knold painting, typical of many works she did in the early 2000s when she first began painting fulltime after retiring from teaching. More recently she has started experimenting with little collage paintings on cardboard and other found materials. She has been posting photos of these on Facebook but has not yet shown them in a gallery. I hope she will be able to post pandem.
The paintings on cardboard are not atmospheric as the earlier works are, but have a kind of solidity, or more specifically the appearance of solidity one might associate with heavier materials. Many of these latest works appear heraldic like medieval armaments, shields or coats of arms. And they are not constricted by the traditional rectangular format of most paintings. Typically, there is a standing vertical rectangular shape topped by a horizontal shape. The colors are bolder than in her earlier paintings, and the paint tends to be heavier and more opaque. There are strong contrasts between expressive marks and flat shapes reminiscent of Adolph Gotlieb and Robert Motherwell.
I have written an in-depth profile of Knold that was recently published by Oly Arts. See it at https://olyarts.org/2020/05/05/evolving-artist-becky-knold/.