By Donna Dodson
Artists often work alone in their studios. Depending on if the work is going well or not, the artist studio acts as a paradise or self-imposed solitary confinement cell. Therefore, artists often seek out peer artists in studio buildings, cooperative galleries and residencies to engage with a community of like-minded individuals.
At mid-career, artists have to be very savvy about cultivating friendships and colleagues that help them survive. The most unique aspect of Soprafina’s current exhibition is the sense of mutuality between the two exhibiting artists: Adria Arch and Anne Krinsky. Together they have made ordinary journeys in their careers into some truly extraordinary adventures. As a result, their work has reached new heights.
For example, in 2014, both artists were invited to attend an international residency at the Sanskriti Foundation in Delhi. Both accepted. Together they made the journey half way around the world to discover what the folk arts and visual traditions of India had to offer their individual studio practices.
Adria Arch found inspiration in the leather shadow puppets from Andhra Pradesh while Anne Krinsky’s eye was drawn to the traditional textiles and embroideries from Punjab. Being in residence together allowed them to take creative leaps side by side and share the act of making art through dialogue and critique. In addition, being in a country that is not easy to explore solo, they found camaraderie and a sense of freedom in each other’s company and companionship that allowed them to travel outside of the residency into other areas of the country.
I visited Adria in her studio to see the work developing from the residency to the completed pieces that are on view at Soprafina Gallery this month. While in residence, she worked with the palette of the shadow puppets and their gestures to create small scale collages and mixed media works that could easily be transported home in a suitcase.
“I have always loved shadow puppetry for the unique visual experience, and I have seen both contemporary iterations of this type of Puppet Theater as well as a few traditional ones,” Arch said. “For example, The artist Kara Walker created a video using this technique. I thought how similar my recent experiments of pouring paint onto thin plastic sheets looked to the shapes of the puppets from Andhra Pradesh. Even the materials used, a translucent animal hide, had a similar look to the way my transparent pigments appear when dropped onto the plastic sheets I had been using.”
Once back in her Lowell studio, she revisited these small intimate works with a larger vision. From the intimate colorful, intense flat works sprang larger gestural marks on canvas. She begins each one with an accident, a spill or a poured splash of paint and then builds up of layers of acrylic medium that emulate the look of encaustic in several of the pieces. Evocative surfaces, suggestive shapes, and purely non-representational narratives give the feeling of a potential kinetic motion that refers to both figure and narrative. This suggestion of movement in Adria’s work relates to the puppet characters, conveying a sense that they could come to life at any moment.
When speaking with Adria, one senses restlessness, eagerness and forward movement. She recently moved from a small in-home studio to a larger professional studio in Lowell. The additional space to work and think was critical to her recent growth spurt following her research during the international residency in Delhi. She is poised to move beyond her current work into new territories after discovering how much India, as a whole, was “not afraid of color.”
Since Anne Krinsky lives in London, we did not meet until the show “Vis-a-Vis” was hung. I was delighted to hear her artist talk at Soprafina on Saturday, April 2, and I was finally able to see the work in person. Digital images did not do justice to the textures, patterns and vibrant optical pulsations of her art in the show. It was a true pleasure to spend time with the artist and her works in person.
The artist talks were well choreographed, with Adria interviewing Anne, and then Anne interviewing Adria. I learned that Anne has a passion for archives and primary source materials. Not coincidentally, her time at the Sanskriti Foundation provided her access to traditional fabrics from the Delhi Craft Museum. The delicate grids, geometric patterns and abstract color relationships made their way into her work.
Krinsky spoke about how the traditional colors used in textiles were created from natural dyes and pigments which would fade over time. In contrast to that, contemporary artisans in India are using synthetic dyes that are much more vibrant than the original materials. However, the patterns and palettes remain unchanged.
Anne also spoke about the lack of infrastructure in museums and archives such as improper climate control and poor lighting that threatens to endanger these collections of textiles and works on paper. In that sense, artists studying and researching textiles are preserving them by using their colors and patterns in their artwork in a very digital, 21st Century way that circulates virally. Like any international ambassador, artists disseminate culture.
However, the educational aspects of the work are secondary to their visual impact. One could see reminiscences of Bridgett Riley in Krinsky’s acrylics on panel and works on paper. Like Adria Arch, Anne had to work in a small scale while abroad since she also brought the work she created in residence back home in her suitcase. Krinsky’s efficient use of materials and space make her intimate and vibrant works on paper have a powerful impact on the viewer. The delicate grid marks seem to hold up the fluid, softer color washes.
As a testament to the artists’ ability to work collaboratively, they approached the up-and-coming powerhouse, Mary Tinti, curator of the Fitchburg Art Museum to script an essay in the catalog accompanying the exhibition. In addition, the gallery director of Soprafina, Frank Roselli, did a splendid job presenting the work in his gallery, hanging the work face-to-face, as the exhibition’s title implies.
If you miss this show in Boston, they will present another iteration of their work at the ARTHOUSE1 Gallery in London in November 2016. But I highly recommend seeing the show in person this month.
(“Vis-à-vis: Adria Arch and Anne Krinsky” runs through April 30 at Soprafina Gallery, 55 Thayer St., Boston, Mass.; the gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. For more information, call (617) 728-0770.)