Published in the Indiana Art Review in September 1999.
by Julie Pratt McQuiston
It is nearly impossible to capture the depth and complexity of an abstract painintg. And Bloomington artist Tamar Kander - whose exhibition, Presence of Space, is on view at Ruschman Art Gallery through June 2 - renders remarkably consistent, complex abstractions: moving layers of paint around on her chosen flat surfaces, giving them immense depth and variety in a finite palette of colors.
I could stop right there, simply suggesting that this is great stuff, but those who shy away from abstract art - would have stopped reading by now, no doubt without having made plans to stop by Ruschman and take a look.
But for those who are still with me, I recommend a visit to the gallery, because this is the kind of abstract art that either converts sworn traditionalists, and/or reassures fans of the less concrete that there's nothing like abstract art when it has soul. This is the kind of art that means nothing, and everything, all at once. The artist may or may not have a particular idea or concept in mind - an exploration of a certain palette of colors, how they react to light; a particular natural form, perhaps, and how it manifests, say, in shades of yellow or gray, or some combination of both.
But the viewer brings to the experience his or her own palette of memories, emotions and associations, much like listening to good music. You're not sure why you like it, but it stirs something within you, intellectual, emotional, or both.
While traditional landscape painters try to render a specific image of sky with shades and layers of paint, an abstract artist can capture the same colorful turbulence of sky and light, not necessarily intending to mimic a cloud or a sunset. But this is often the result.
The mixed media paintings of Kander are suggestive of changing skies, whether or not this is what she intends. And Kander moves layers of paint around on the canvas in satisfyingly complex combinations, using like colors. Her skies emerge in yellow, gold, peach and amber with an occasional bit of red, gray or white sounding through the fog of thickly applied paint.
I spied a horizon line in "Frost," stretching out beneath a buff sky with overcast undertones, the deep layers of earth suggested in sections, the brightest colors of light muted. But this is not hastily rendered canvas; this moment is painstakingly applied in visual terms, a calculated yet fluid movement of light, form, and color.
Kander's smaller etchings (versions of the title "Slope") are land with bits of sky, and yet the air dominates, its mood giving color to each monolithic wedge of land. Plums, mauves and grays are a departure from the large-scale moods evoked in her larger canvasses, and yet these smaller pieces are equally evocative.
But what to make of "Turret"? In the same movement of textures on canvas, in golds and yellows and more natural tans, a turret indeed emerges through the thickness. WOrds are applied like graffiti in both "Cityscape" and "Eyre: A Council of Judges." The connection is obvious in "Cityscape," but there's more to ponder with "Eyre" - "your vision," "who are you," as well with the words "first, second, third, winning, freedom" are incorporated into the image. And if you step back, a contorted face emerges from the thick.
But beyond neutrals, in "Billow," a corner of blue emerges, along with a waterfall of striations, grooved into the thick paint. And like the surface of the moon - at least as I imagine it - the enigmatic surfaces that stretch endlessly can either invite or disturb by their endlessness. But Kander's abstract weather suggests such journeys are of our own making... and journeys worth taking.
Ruschman Art Gallery
948 N. Alabama St.