Anna Redwine’s artwork is experiential on multiple levels – in the conception, the making and the viewing. The New Orleans native works in a process that sounds just as improvisational as legendary NOLA jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.
While her response is usually based on what is an intense experience for her, it’s an experiential intensity, not a dramatic one. Her inspiration can come from something as mundane as a tiny insect crawling across her arm or the movement of a small frog through the water of a pond. The intensity comes in the translation of that full experience, one that engages all of the senses, through what can only be described as a very meditative art making process. That full sensory experience is distilled into color and mark, a gestural mark that records her internal as well as external act of seeing.
The artist says that she knows where her starting point is in a work, but not where she’s going after beginning. She empties her mind and allows her other senses to take over, making very subjective, subconscious choices about both mark and color as she works to evoke those moods and feeling for others. The art becomes the experience of the making, a process that extracts and distills experience into form.
Redwine has made Columbia her home for most of the last decade, arriving in the city to pursue an MFA degree at the University of South Carolina. But unlike so many of the transient student population, she stayed after graduation, immersing herself in the urban life of the city. Deeply committed to growing a vital downtown Columbia, she has served as the president of the Columbia Design League for the past several years and is an active board member at 701 Center for Contemporary Art.
The young artist’s concern with the interconnectedness of things is a crucial part of her artwork as well. She uses her empathetic skills to identify with her subject, whether it’s a lowly mosquito, a firefly moving through the night air, or a fellow human being. This lets her connect with the subject kinetically, making marks that synchronize with the subject’s movement through space.
In two earlier solo exhibitions presented by if ART Gallery at Gallery 80808, “Anna Redwine: Life in One Breath” in 2006 and “April Drawings” in 2007 she incorporated a spare use of dark calligraphic lines within the larger surrounding white spaces. In her most recent work she turns that system on its head. “Anna Redwine: Nocturnes”, a solo exhibition of her latest work, was presented by if ART at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios on Lady Street in Columbia in June.
As with most of her work, Redwine produced “Nocturnes” earlier this year as a response to a direct experience, this time a camping trip in a remote area far from her everyday urban life.
“I love to be alone outside at night,” Redwine says, “when the smells are so intense, and shapes are nebulous. The works are non-representational responses to my subconscious and specifically informed by senses other than sight.”
“I also had been thinking about mystery and embracing the unknown. Nocturne to me doesn’t mean scary or macabre. It means enchanting and beckoning.”
And these pieces most definitely beckon to the viewer with bursts of intense color that emerge from dense inky blacks.
Redwine created the mixed media paintings after returning to Columbia, over the course several days of intense, concentrated work. The work that came out of this process is filled with her signature calligraphic linear mark, but there is a concentrated vigor to them that makes the paintings some of her most highly expressionistic work yet. These are not literal depictions of natural forms – in fact, it’s some of her most abstract work to date – but there are allusions to representational elements that give the works an anchor in the experiential world.
Another development in this body of work is her explosive use of color. Redwine’s last body of work was spare, monochromatic, and almost Zen-like in its economy of line and use of the negative spaces to define the positive ones. The meditative Zen quality is still present but the color is anything but monochromatic now. Intense yellows, pinks and greens bloom out of the dark surface of the pieces. She fills the negative spaces in this new work with lush, dense blacks so that they function as much more than surrounding voids. While they might represent the darkness of the air at night, they also evoke the rich potential of the earth, a dark fecund-ness. The end result is a body of work full of color, atmosphere and expressive mark making.
As Redwine says, “Nighttime and darkness are specific forms of space – opportunity, the unknown, staring at the stars, making out the shapes in silhouettes of trees and buildings.”
“Nocturne” isn’t just about nighttime, though. It’s also about mysterious attics and crannies and paths that trail off in the distance.