June 20, 2006


Amanda Church at Michael Steinberg Fine Art, New York, May 25-June 24, 2006 The purpose of imagination is to see. Amanda Church understands that it takes very little to allow us to depart from the real into the imagined, and she provides these elements in her paintings as an entry into the mystery that separates the sensory from what is useful in everyday life. The type of experience they engender can be found easily in nature, like looking for the constellations in the night sky, or divining meaning from tea leaves. Three elements are actively at work in these images: lines, color, and perspective, and each complicates the other two. Looking at “Flash Point” (2006) for instance, we may at first see only areas of color and forms that suggest hands, feet, and the profile of a human face. The shapes inferring human form are not depicted straightforwardly, but as if a picture was taken from so close to its subject that all the details became blurred. Also, Church cuts across the “objective” of the painting with a scrim of other lines that disjoint it, as if the camera lens itself were blurred or cracked. Then she also adds alien colors to the mixture, which create visual areas that war with one another, tempting us to look closer while always obfuscating the process that leads to visual clarity. In a different painting, “Tangled Web” (2006), we are presented with a visceral mess of veins and tendons, the interior workings of the human body that are palpably human though in themselves esthetically ambiguous. It is far more difficult to perceive intimations of physical reality in abstract forms when they emerge from the popular imagination out of issues of Nature magazine. Yet the tension of these lines and bodies, when combined with a playful and tentative use of color, overwhelm the interior vertigo we may encounter. It is perhaps easier to see human elements in nature but more fulfilling to realize the human in an effort to create beauty from the most oblique perspectives painting can offer.

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