Friday, December 25, 2009

Paintings by JANET SNELL -- a calendar

This deluxe 2010 calendar should be on the walls of art-loving people. It's remarkable. The 12 images of Janet's paintings make you forget all about dates, even time. They make you stop. Time is staggered. Weird calendar!

I'm not going to talk in detail about each painting. Rather, these images stretch my find a general space in which to set them, in which to gain a tenuous perspective.

They all have heads, suspended in ambiguous space or set amid indefinite objects...slippery forms. Each work pulsates with intense primary colors. These hues are made brilliant by their contrast to murkier, darker shades lurking here and there. The play of form and color produces an almost hypnogogic effect, or maybe hallucinatory: you begin to force known things onto these shifting background shapes...the colors come at you like memories you've forgotten.

And the heads!

Human-looking, for the most part. But before I get to the heads, I want to offer something about style and genre. I tend to look for representational things in these paintings. I want to make sense of them. If there is a human head or a background object that seems familiar, I want to force a narrative. Piece them together. But I don't think that is what Janet's style is about. I think these paintings are expressionistic and too abstract for my compulsive attempt at interpretation. I don't think these works are meant to be interpreted. They are to be experienced. They are affective, not textual.

These paintings are poised halfway between the abstract and the concrete. And, damn!...that's what makes them so compelling. The days on the calendar become irritatingly ordinary. You want nothing to do with time for a while (yes, that's paradoxical). You enjoy being held in marvelous suspense.

But back to those heads. It could be the case that those human heads are floating in a paradoxical space: yes, obviously human (and all that that signals to us) but also pure moments of form. Cephalic shapes to circumscribe color-vacuums, lending force to the other “objects.”

Another impression jumps into my own head, beyond what I said above about...well, whatever it was I said. For me, I feel like I'm looking at a negative-image of consciousness. The subconscious? Maybe. And what's weird and cool is that those heads, drained of color and feature detail, seem to express more human soulfulness and depth than even a portrait by Rembrandt!

“Hyperbole,” you shout!

Well, buy the calendar and see if I'm exaggerating.

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