For the Collaborations sector of Art Cologne 2021, Gaa Gallery is pleased to present a two-person exhibition by New York-based painters Ena Swansea and Jane Corrigan.
This exhibition of new works by Swansea and Corrigan will engage in a dialog on the narrative capacities of contemporary painting. Through highlighting their distinct visions and divergent approaches, this exhibition illuminates the shared timelessness and exploration of the materiality of painting, image-making, and examination of art history.
For Art Cologne, Ena Swansea will present a selection of recent paintings primarily comprised of landscapes, trees, water, and urban spaces blanketed in snow. In her newest work, Swansea delves into the subjects of land and water, depicting density and lightness through atmospheric conditions that cause both distortion and illumination. Through the abstraction of form and the meticulous layering of material- oil, acrylic, graphite, and charcoal, Swansea's paintings resist immediate narratives and draw on the ethereal and expansive qualities of material and image. Swansea's work deals largely with the challenge of painting itself and citing painters like William Turner, Caspar David Friedrich, and Édouard Manet, she focuses on the rendering of light, the depiction thereof, and the depth of darkness. Through her masterful portrayal of luminosity and opacity, the landscape is presented through a lens of decayed Romanticism. Working from photographs and memory, Swansea's work offers a hybrid of Impressionistic observation and is rendered in a language that references cinema, the history of painting and the intersections of culture, architecture, society, and nature.
Departing from her paintings of people in crowds moving together- through parades, parties, nightclubs, and urban spaces, Swansea's recent paintings portray people in isolation surrounded by the massiveness of the landscape. Tied together with a simultaneously somber and slightly melancholic tone, Swansea's newest work illuminates the tension within the landscape. Nature is overlaid with prismatic color characterized by feelings of exuberance, celebration, and resilience while also depicting the thresholds of collapse, contamination, and toxicity. With this saturated palette, marked by compelling shifts in color, Swansea's paintings suggest both the agency and resiliency of nature through adaptive and mutative phenomena and the threat of the global environmental crisis. Undoubtedly influenced by our current time, Swansea's work, without ever providing a singular answer, offers a multitude of possibilities and provides, through painting, a point of meditation, rumination, and reflection of contemporary realities.
Presented alongside Swansea's work are the paintings of Jane Corrigan. Across her work, Corrigan has explored the figure through storytelling, creating psychologically charged paintings. Leaning on accumulative narratives over time, as in a film or novel, the people and situations drawn from her imagination coexist in a world of overlapping and entwined stories. Composed of elements from different periods, her work has an anachronistic relationship with time, suggesting a sort of comic book Impressionism. Corrigan mines her subjects through myriad drawings and oil studies. The process is a real quest. Characters come to life in her paintings as imagined portraits that explore the subconscious through parody and self-referential allegory.
In this series, a new iconography has emerged- mountains, digging, gardens- which form an expanded lexicon of symbols. Paint is applied in a loose, cursive manner, echoing the alacrity of her drawings and other works on paper. There is a paler palette than previously seen, suggesting a heightened sense of luminosity, wind, and movement. The characters portrayed, possible sisters or school-mates, are youthful and exploratory, caught at play or performing chores at home. Often cats are nearby. These creatures act as visible manifestations of a muse or spirit that keeps watch, and who must also be fed and played with. Stairs, doors, windows, and vistas invite the viewer to wonder beyond the confines of whatever momentary tableau is depicted. Each scene presents non-linear narratives for the viewer to piece together, imbue with meaning and deconstruct again.