Archetypes in Space

Exhibition: Anima Vestra
Artist: Ann London-Zvejnieks
St. Tammany Art Assoc. Art House
Covington, Louisiana, USA
February 13 – March 27, 2021

Below are a few images from a fantastic exhibition of works by London-Zvejnieks. The images struck me as powerful archetypes. The charcoal medium, sans color, really allows a focus on character and on the lines and strokes. Most engaging about the lines and strokes, I thought, is how they place the figures in space. Also, to me they gave the effect of ancient (and periodically revived) rubbing art. To be honest, someone advised against that comparison because it might sound like I was suggesting cheap duplicates of something else. It is true that rubbing art suggests an image taken from something else – e.g., from an original relief image of brass or wood or stone – but I don’t mean to say the works here seem copied from other originals but rather that London-Zvejnieks uses this effect to create a kind of internal palimpsest that adds power to the archetypes. What are archetypes after all? Images in the collective unconscious (or at the “primitive roots of consciousness” as Carl Jung says), buried under layers and layers of history on the cultural level and buried under layers and layers of conscious memories on the personal level. Buried, primeval, perhaps forgotten on the conscious level, but still exerting an enormous influence on the way we think and feel and see the world. In that sense, I think the presentation of the images as something emerging from behind the surface of these larger charcoal strokes — or, with the larger exhibition in mind, emerging from the primeval African landscapes and fauna that London-Zvejnieks draws from — is perfect.


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Art at Lechón Illustrado

I was at Lechón Illustrado recently looking at Samara Colina’s paintings with friend and artist, Catalina Gris. What I found most interesting was how the paintings worked on two levels. Up close, you could get lost in a fantastic abstract array of color patches.

Then, as you slowly move away, the image becomes more and more representational.

When the whole scene finally comes into focus, the sheer number of human figures represented is dizzying.

“Maybe,” I said to Cati, “maybe that’s what Kant meant by the mathematical sublime.” (Sidebar: I have more than once bantered my German friends that it takes a German like Kant to see mathematics as a sublime experience.) Anyway, Kant was talking about magnitude, but here it is literally a numeric overload; as you step back from the detail, the multitude is too great to fathom or even to be contained in the frame of the canvas. Even the spatula smears diagonally across the upper left and right warp the time-space curve into something larger than what the senses can grasp.

“No,” Cati said. “This isn’t it – the Kantian sublime.” Not that she didn’t like the painting, she just thought I was forcing in the theory. She was probably right. I always try a bit too hard to wrap my head around the mathematical sublime. (Kant’s power-based dynamical sublime is easier to grasp for me.)

“Maybe if the entire wall was covered,” Cati said.

“Yes,” I said, “That’s it.”

Whether representative of Kant’s mathematical sublime or not, it is a signature feature of Colina’s work (cp. the painting below, also at Lechón Illustrado).

(Click images below for links)

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