Painter Gina Malek brings a body of new paintings to E. Tay Gallery this month, assembling a series of the artist’s intuitive interactions with the canvas through a range of different scenes and situations. Teasing out various modes of linguistic understanding and interpretation through her loosely rendered canvases, Malek’s work in the show plays with the act of speech, and the vagaries of expression that so often spring from the inexact moments of vocalization.
Much of Malek’s work deals with the moment of depiction and the effort of expression, often rendering her subjects in hazy, washed-out hand that leaves silhouettes and clouds of pigment across the canvas. In the playfully titled Don’t Do It, Malek’s figures are defined in part by their empty spaces, breaks in the figure’s body that allow text and shape to slowly evolve out of a space of indeterminacy. Faces swirl into masses of color, their features often clouded over or left completely out of the equation. Posture and flow are essential for Malek; rather than pushing aggressively towards exact depictions and explorations of her figures, she allows the scene to set itself, the figures and lines to fluidly expand out from her brush, slowly but deliberately creating scenes from masses of color and decisive brushwork.
In another work Truth in Timbre, she has depicted her Farsi language tutor Malihe, rendering the teacher’s form in vague, loping lines and gently curving marks. The work is embellished with Malihe’s own handwriting over the top of the piece, capturing a new mode of personification that toys with the act of portraiture as one inherently bound up in its subject. This break, allowing the sitter’s own hand and tongue to literally infuse the canvas with new meaning, underscores Malek’s impressive sense of her medium, and the potential expressive capacities she has incorporated into her work. For many of these pieces, the mark so often evolves into the body itself, singular gestures transform into singular figures through elaboration and elongation. Much in the same way that a word or momentary thought is capable of growing into a fully fledged idea or sentence, Malek’s works are scenes by accumulation, compositions given particular strength and power by their ability to rest squarely between legibility and ambiguity.
The exhibition is on view through January 13th.
— D. Creahan
Gina Malek at E. Tay Gallery [Exhibition Site]