Emily Chatton: Gossamer
Curated by Fabiola Alondra and Annelie McGavin
April 5 - April 30, 2012
Emily Chatton’s most recent work, exemplified by a series of five floor-to-ceiling ink and mylar panels currently hanging in South Williamsburg’s light-filled Picture Farm, represents a departure from the dominant forms, distinct patterns and spatial density that characterize much of her earlier work. Where oil and enamel once tamed her compositions, these viscous media now quite literally out of the picture, the ink indulges in a kind of ecstatic dance across the mylar surface, and with Chatton’s skillful guidance, the pieces slowly find their wildly ornate, yet innately subtle compositions.
After spending some time with Chatton, who is herself something of a mirror of her work, I surmised that this gradual shift came about in part as a reaction to the restrictions imposed by her classical training, but also as a response to the many cultural and political barriers she has encountered in trying to affect positive change on the “real” world’s terms. Fittingly, the subdued colors in Chatton’s new pieces are smeared through gradients, borders are quixotic and at times non-extant, lines weave and tangle and end in short bursts or recede to extinction, while light lends an obscurity to dimension. Forms and patterns are still an integral part of the work, but the rhythms have loosened. Now they are entwined with nature itself, where a benign chaos oversees the domain of creation, and an organic vagary flourishes in the moment captured by the finished work. The use of mylar canvas, whose cloudy refulgence underscores the presence of the indistinct, signifies a move away from rigidness, predictability and security (and the false hope the latter represents), and toward something more - lifelike. Meanwhile, the newly availed space in the work creates a sensuously palpable void, and where Chatton is reluctant to even title the pieces, the result is an invitation to the viewer to enter and to engage the work on his/her own terms.
While things black and white, ‘element photography,’ for instance, informed much of Chatton’s past work, more recently she has found inspiration in places; oft encountered through travels and for this reason existing fleetingly in her mind. Fixating on an image, she begins an exploration of it in her work. The creation process then becomes one of meditating, pondering and gathering until the representative ephemera coalesce into loosely rendered “landscapes,” where time and space are but bi-products of memory.
In the act of evolving through her work, Chatton has embraced the flow of the accident, human frailty and the temporal nature of reality, the violability of space, the irregularity of time. In one instant her works seem to embody the kind of age-long effacement of earth at the hand of its elements that carve glaciers and canyons; in the next they feel as immediate as rain drops skittering down a pane, and the next, completely still. Nothing is urgent here. Time is suspended. There is no clutter, no voices barking orders, no spectacle, no literal message; there is only the moment coupled with the memory of it’s own inception, and you, the viewer, are invited into this gossamer frame, if only for an instant, to see what you might find there.
Mike Fisher is a writer, artist and musician living, and occasionally breathing, in New York City.view all articles from this author