By Lindsey Davis
Boston, MA – Two girls stretch atop ladders with bright colors on the ends of their brushes, carefully filling in morphing feathered sections of wall at the Kingston Gallery. Another girl stands to the left painting thick black lines that trace a projected outline, a slide created by Sophia Ainslie that combines her drawings into one mural design for this entire wall.
Ainslie has been working on this drawing series for the past four years, combining two sources of inspiration to represent the color and lined counterparts that dance and combine on an otherwise blank background. The dark lined spaces contrast with the color and emptiness that surrounds them. The left side of the mural is left empty compared to the colorful busy right side that greets you as you enter the gallery. Ainslie explained that this kind of balance was important, a kind of fading that reflects the wall mural’s temporary existence and works to keep from overpowering the framed works around the gallery as well.
The lines reference landscapes seen beneath her feet, “So I’m in it, rather than at it,” she said. The flat color areas were inspired by the last X-ray taken of her mother’s abdomen after finding cancer, a powerful turning point in Ainslie’s life when her mother decided against surgery and passed away at 82. “It’s a departure point, my process,” she said. Ainslie sees the past four years of paintings as a reflection that is finally manifesting on a large scale with the Kingston Gallery mural.
“When she got ill, I felt that I needed to work more deliberately,” Ainslie continued, “I wanted to work with a rectangle again, I needed limitations.” Since then her art has transformed into a metaphor for life, her mark-making irreversible as she refuses to erase, allowing the work to develop organically and honestly before the viewer. “It’s about being comfortable with the decision,” she said.
Four years ago the series began as 80 drawings sized 8 x 11 that gradually grew through 50 x 38 and past 77 x 54 to finally become an explosion across an entire wall. It’s important that the wall is horizontal, she explained, since most of the drawings were vertical, focusing on the body. The wall’s long horizontal stretch allows her to communicate a release and a sense of letting go that becomes a part of the architecture, surrounding and enveloping the viewer, if only temporarily. “This particular wall drawing feels like a release, a celebration,” she said, “I feel more free in the manner I’m exploring my mother’s body. There is more color, more exploration of mark making overlaying color, of movement, and the introduction of more color.”
Ainslie used 15 trained assistants to help her paint, the most she’s ever used, which she says is a kind of experiment, testing how much of her work she can give away and the amount of perceptible difference between her hand and another’s. “2012 was a year of multiple murals made in gallery settings,” she said, “the gallery became my studio,” a theme continued here at Kingston Gallery where viewers were invited to watch the mural progress. She stressed that she’d never want to be completely out of the process though, “I love painting too much,” she said.
(Sophia Ainslie’s “in person” exhibition continues through February 24 at the Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston. The opening reception takes place on Friday, February 1 from 5-7:30 p.m.; the gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon-5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call (617) 423-4113.)