By JONATHAN GOODMAN, August 2022
The book Coalescing Geometries is an excellent presentation and analysis of the paintings of Lorien Suárez-Kanerva, who has traveled extensively but who now lives in California. Of a bicultural Venezuelan and American heritage, the artist has expanded her intellectual outlook through extensive study: she has a high honors degree from Berkeley, as well as another degree from the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium. Additionally, she has studied at Universidad de Salamanca and ESADE in Barcelona. Along with painting, her major interest, Suárez-Kanerva is a writer, producing reviews and articles for Art Miami and Whitehot Magazine. Her beautifully designed monograph has been published by Artvoices Art Books, and, in addition to an extensive selection of the painter’s strikingly hued, complex geometric works, a number of essays are spaced periodically along the length of the book. Authors include historian, curator, and editor Peter Frank; the writer and curator Milagros Bello; and the artist herself.
As Frank points out in his lucid introduction, Suárez Kanerva practices a style most accurately described as Neo-Modernism. This means, as the extensive documentation of the artist’s paintings points out, that Suárez Kanerva’s art takes direction from various styles in the century before us, ranging from Cubism to intricate geometries defined as much by color as form. Thus, she looks to a historically driven but very contemporary treatment of a tradition we might well think is oriented mostly toward the past. But this is not so in Suárez Kanerva’s paintings, which are filled with overflowing light, dazzling within the designs the artist has chosen. The brilliant colors of her art cannot be denied, and the complex arrangement of forms, often brought together like the parts of a puzzle, result in a free, highly creative reference to artists from the last century. The truth is that modernism has never really left us, determined as its contemporary practitioners are to find new ways of keeping the tradition alive.
Not all the essays can be described, but Milagros Bello, an academic, has contributed a fine essay about Suárez Kanerva’s paintings. Bello emphasizes the formal beauty of the art: the swirling, brightly hued geometric patterns that overtake the expanse of the composition. At the same time, Bello uses a phrase such as “cosmic world” to acknowledge the mystical leanings of the artist, whose work suggests a boundless unity without specifying a particular devotional practice–even when she quotes Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit philosopher, as a guide to spiritual matters. Bello is very aware of the artist’s drive toward the depiction of unknown realms, which are outlined indirectly by the nonobjective forms. Bello does a fine job of joining a close description of Suárez Kanerva’s method to the portrayal of her otherworldly concerns.
The book’s last writings were done by Suárez Kanerva herself. Of a mystical disposition, the artist quotes a good deal from de Chardin, whose buoyant faith, optimistic in the extreme, looks to a time when the preoccupations of people merge with the unseen, but deeply influential force of belief. The stylistic complexity in Suárez Kanerva’s art asserts a resounding affirmation inspired by God, alive in the lucent nature of her efforts.The paintings provide insight by creating an abstraction reminding us both of art history and spiritual development. The essays in the book are excellent; the writers overcome the challenge of interpreting a regularly nonobjective art. While the essayists’ point of view looks closely at Suárez Kanerva’s abstraction, they must also convey the mystical drive in the art. The challenge is to capture the effect of the works, which build abstract patterns of colorful immediacy. The large selection of artworks available in this luminous, informative book reveal the artist’s sensibility, given to light. It is clear that Suárez Kanerva has never stopped searching. WM
Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications.
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