Jun. 03, 2009 - Issue #711: Rancid
Soundscapes: Sounds good
Sala's paintings prove vibrant abstractionsKim Sala's Soundscapes is a collection of bright abstract paintings animated with a strong sense of movement and bold graphic shapes, inspired by music. MFA shows at the U of A's FAB Gallery are generally interesting and exciting glimpses of strong emerging artists, and although this show seems somewhat unsurprising in its nature and subject matter, its striking, visually appealing canvases fit well into that narrative.
Sala's statement quotes Charles Baudelaire on his interest in formal translation between emotional and sensational experiences, described as "synesthesia." As hinted in the title, Soundscapes is in part an attempt to translate recorded auditory experiences into painted forms. Interestingly, despite the painting's connections to the history of 20th century abstract expressionism and Baudelaire's influentially Romantic position in history (the quote itself is taken from his admiring review of Richard Wagner's music), the statement hesitates to discuss any kind of emotional relevance of the work. Only once does Sala hint at it, stating "I have always enjoyed the noise of the city."
Her sense of joy is crucial to the paintings themselves. They are large, vibrant works, filled with graphic cut-out shapes, to me recalling contemporary vector-drawn graphic design, which give them an exciting dimensionality and sense of movement. In the best paintings in the show, these shapes seem to be attached awkwardly to one another, pulling amongst themselves and about to lurch off of the stretcher, or to be already in the midst of such a deconstructive process as the shapes tumble through the space of the image. I found two works in particular to be less satisfying because they lacked this same sense of excitement, as the cut-out shapes seemed too evenly-spread to create such an unstable composition. Elsewhere, however, the shapes work very well; in one of the most interesting works, visible as one climbs the stairs, they manage to echo the theme of synesthesia and formal translation by making the black-on-black monochrome seem colourful and alive.
My one concern for the show is undoubtably tied-up with my own sense of taste, as this style is not my preference. Despite this, I think that the paintings have an undeniable sense of motion and life and some of them are quite wonderful to look at, but I am less sure about some of Sala's conceptual choices. To me, "synesthesia" seems a simple, easy and popular way of avoiding serious discussion—it reads as a little cliché, a retread of Baudelaire's 1861 work and so much 20th century painting. Unlike Yan Geng's recent exploration of similar expressionist subject-matter, Sala doesn't seem to want to make a direct comment about the history which she draws upon. She quotes Baudelaire's argument that sound, form and colour are "[suitable] for the translation of ideas," but it's not entirely clear what ideas she wants to translate. Perhaps this is a question for her future career, one that we can hope she will answer in as fine a style. V
Until Sat, Jul 4
MFA Grad show by Kim Sala
FAB Gallery (112 st & 87 Ave)
New comments for this entry have been turned off and any existing ones are hidden. We apologize for any inconvenience.