She’s done it again! Local artist Sondra Arkin recently brought four new works to the gallery depicting a different style. She was uncertain about the new direction her paintings were headed and wanted to see her work outside the confines of the studio. Arkin’s works were mounted on the gallery’s white walls right before the talk on Saturday afternoon. They were the most talked-about pieces of the day. Sondra may have felt that she “jumped off the cliff”, but she sure landed well.
Stylistic development is crucial in the oeuvre of every artist. If Picasso stuck with the academic realism of his figures prior to 1901, the history of art would have never witnessed his defying of tradition via the Blue, Rose and African-influenced Periods, as well as the different stages of Cubism. In the twenty-first century, artists are expected to reinvent their styles over and over again. For many, it is the only way to keep developing artistically. It is hard to do, and even harder to do it successfully.
Two of Arkin’s new works (pictured above), 32’’x32’’ encaustic on dibond paintings, particularly stand out. Her “brick wall” motif both dominates and accents the new compositions, without becoming repetitive, (as, in my view, the paintings in Sean Scully’s Wall of Light series did). These compositions are less structured than before, and indicate the artist’s desire to toss all pre-determined fears aside and simply jump into the unknown. The colors, though still energetic, are slightly muted, as if to reduce the focus on color itself in favor of returning to a focus on the effects of layering – which contain Arkin’s stylistic reference to the overlapping layers of joy, sadness, triumph and tragedy that come to define each of us.
In my opinion, the biggest difference between the old and new Arkin works is in her ability to create movement with the tactile rendering of colors. Rather than having the colors compliment each other side by side, Arkin has produced lines, points and shapes that are suspended in a timeless dance on the picture plane. In her new paintings Mitosis and Waterloo (both 2008), it is the texture that compliment each other; they tell stories and compose melodies. Like the musical paintings of Wassily Kandinsky, Arkin’s new works express power in linear forms and prove that abstraction is not simply the effect of a random process but the result of authenticity and an effort towards the beauty found inwards.
Above all, Sondra Arkin’s continued success in creating abstract art teaches us to observe our surroundings and "see" things we have never seen before or perhaps never looked close enough to see. May these musical pieces continue to add to the many layers of experience that influence our lives.