In a California Kind of Mood
LA artist Rema Ghuloum brings on the color in her show at Hawthorn Contemporary.
With eyes full of spring as the first crocuses were blooming, I floated into Hawthorn Contemporary to see “Pink Sky, Red Sea,” paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Rema Ghuloum. This work will be experienced by Wisconsinites differently than by Californians as the nip of winter’s chill subsides and (hopefully) the last snow fall melts. In the large white gallery space the paintings dapple the walls with abstract shapes and glowing forms. The sensitivity of color, touch and surface softly beckons me closer.
Each painting feels like a song whose color and intensity plays on the emotions of the viewer like few paintings I have experienced. Paul Klee or Howard Hodgkin come to mind as their work deals with memory and feeling in a glowing and abstract space. I noticed some areas of the paintings are thin and sanded, wisps of paint flutter, pushing old feelings and past days of work to the edges where they collect like sediment and form a thin outer crust. This work is about the process of painting but also about the light and self-listening. I wonder if the lack of seasons in LA has increased Ghuloum’s sensitivity to her own inner seasons, her own painterly language, like when a person loses one sense and the others become stronger. I begin to hum a line from an early version of Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues”: “San Francisco is fine, you sure get lots of sun, but I’m used to four seasons, California’s got but one.”
In a painting like “Black Day” there are multiple inner glows that occur. In the main body of the painting, the light is from behind, but at the left edge it also glows from what seems to be another warm inner light but upon closer inspection there is thick orange paint on top which cradles the canvas’s edge like a sleeping cat. A painting like “Into the Rainbow” feels thin like butterfly wings or a well-loved sweater, transparent with wear but miraculously still retaining its color like a dead beetle collected from the sidewalk that seems to never fade.
There is a sense that these paintings are relics and have been touched and energized over time, meditated with and communed through. The paint, a layering of oil, acrylic and acryla-gouache, creates an often dry surface, like oil pastels applied to absorbent paper. Only the edges come fully into focus. The middle of each painting is a collection of faint lines and color vibrating and pulsing in different depths of glazed visual clarity. Meandering, sinuous lines weave and coil like intestines in the hollowed cavity of the canvas. Every area of the surface is considered and the range of soft and hard edges dances in space. Blobs, drips, scabs float past each other, mingling and freezing when a piece is completed.
As Ghuloum says in her statement: “The way in which one sees, feels, recalls, and absorbs an experience fascinates me and I consider how this can be translated and transformed through painting.” This exhibition is an experience in itself and If you can open yourself to these paintings, you will leave feeling a bit more illuminated.
“Pink Sky, Red Sea” Gallery
“Pink Sky, Red Sea,” paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Rema Ghuluom, at Hawthorn Contemporary, 706 S. 5th St., through May 26.
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