The recognition of literal and conceptual material, discovered in the happenstance of process informs a new body of work by Omaha based artist Christina Narwicz. Accidentally on Purpose, now on view at Anderson O’Brien Fine Art Old Market through May 26, 2013, explores the objective language and subjective investigation of painting and nature.
The undercurrent resonating throughout the exhibition’s installation is the repetition and layering of pattern, color, and line. “Untitled I-VI” opens the show with symbols and diagrams serving as notations for the exhibition as a whole. Their material, line and shape function as vocabulary for the visual language Narwicz is articulating.
“Entries I-V” placed next to “Untitled I-VI” sets the tone. It is a set of five individual paintings each referencing the other. “I’ve been going on the theme of parts to the whole,” Narwicz said. “The work has pattern, the same premise as the pattern of a cell structure, honey comb, or flower petals.”
The abstract organic line evoking natural forms operates as a force of its own in the varying context of other patterns. This liveliness of line activates four of the panels. The remaining panel referencing text obscures lines in the paint’s atmospheric layering, allowing the nuance of paint and its materiality to communicate what words cannot.
A larger set of five individual paintings simultaneously refers to visible foliage and flower petals, as well as the root structure necessary for growth. The blue-gray lines in “Root-Route” map the surface while amplifying the space. “Pthalo Scheme”, “Blue Scheme”, and “Indian Red Scheme” present a trio of color variations each exploring form, both as subject and object. “Shocking” combines these processes as an amalgamation of color and texture. The image appears to fluctuate between the blooming forces of nature and a self-referential modernist object.
“These things are all parts of a whole,” the Narwicz said. “They each have repetition of form, which could be like a mantra repeating. These things keep on layering. I guess it’s a complex language. When it’s finished it has congruity to it.”
“Plan B” elegantly incorporates the mystery found in the spaces between language, nature, and culture. The value contrasts and linear qualities of the paint and its application become a visual metaphor for the tension between these considerations. The piece invites the viewer to join in a playful dance between obscurity and clarity. “Yin Wood”, on the other hand, holds the viewer at bay, simultaneously imaging bold abstraction, subtle pattern and landscape vista.
The strength in Narwicz’s work is found in its capacity to navigate the arena of a physical painted surface simultaneously articulating an ephemeral thematic idea. Through the practiced handling of paint and its possibilities her visual imagination establishes a space in the painting, and a place for the viewer.
The green modulations and black and white erasures in “Palimpsest” are Narwicz at her best. The title’s reference to images whose history can be seen through visible under-layers communicates the idea of re-using layers of meaning. The erasing, scraping, and layering can change the original context, opening a new possibility for interpretation. The textural distribution of calligraphic marks is balanced within a sweeping arc of lines jostling for position. This painting doesn’t stop. It keeps on course through its ambiguity of layering and handling of paint.
“The paint does the work,” Narwicz said. “I follow what the paint does, it’s that wonderful symbiotic happy accident, accidentally on purpose, things happen that are not your intention. You’re always trying to reveal through the language of paint a new meaning.” Narwicz joins the company of other painters who have travelled this terrain, such as Helen Frankenthaler and Brice Marden.
The happy accidents in “Abstruse” and “Abstruse Too!” tickle the abstract honeycomb pattern. The variation and proportion of intense color line asserts itself. Its vibrancy resonates within the painting’s strong light and dark contrast. When the drawing or paint takes over, the abstraction becomes fully apparent. “Distraction” also celebrates intense color with its red rhythm moving in and out of a verdant display of paint.
On a table, in the middle of the gallery space, is a binder of watercolors. Coming back to these smaller studies, after taking in the exhibition as a whole, is a reminder of where the journey began. It is also a marker for what Narwicz has accomplished. “Time Guide I” beside the front desk encapsulates the essence of the larger experience in the big pieces.
With Narwicz’s attention to process, practice and paint Accidentally on Purpose reveals itself as no accident at all. Through its exploration of perception the work continually asks provocative questions. Viewers can delight in finding their own answers.
Christina Narwicz, Accidentally on Purpose continues through May 26, 2013, Anderson O’Brien Fine Art Old Market,1108 Jackson Street, 402.884.0911, Gallery Hours: Mon – Wed 10 am - 6 pm, Thurs – Sat 10 am - 9 pm, Sun 12 pm - 4 pm. http://www.aobfineart.com