Perhaps one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary American painting, artist Amy Sillman has relentlessly and repeatedly pushed her own style towards the furthest reaches of her capacity, always in an attempt to interrogate and re-evaluate the language and practice of painting against the backdrop of modern history and the attendant shifts from analog to digital technologies and labor processes. Based in New York, the artist has opened her first major solo institutional show in the UK this fall, an ambitious and expansive walk through her work at the Camden Arts Centre in North London.
Sillman’s work is perhaps best described as process-intensive, allowing for an ongoing working style that sees her work over and rework the surfaces of her canvases; sanding, scraping, repainting and embellishing works as they move further into a newly constructed painterly space that has little in common with her original points of departure. The result are pieces that present themselves as much as records of construction as they are landscapes of the artist’s own emotional mindsets, a sort of journal in which physical movement, psychological energy and personal inclinations are allowed to co-mingle on the canvas. Passing through the galleries, one is confronted with the ever-shifting nature of her graphical output, interlocking shapes and forms that bear the marks of age quite readily, while other works seem to float out and away from legibility, as if the work itself had begun to collapse under the weight of its accumulated gestures.
What’s particularly noteworthy here, in conversation with the depth of forms and concepts, is the density of the work. Little wall space is afforded in some rooms between canvases, creating a shifting, stream-of-consciousness movement throughout the space as the viewer paces from work to work. Much in the same way that Sillman’s pieces rely on process and practice in relation to their repeated, twisted and embellished forms, the show itself allows a pathway through the work as the sum of accumulated gestures.
The viewer is not presented merely with an act or a moment distilled in time and space, but rather with the summation of these moments, an unbroken line and process and practice that spans the artist’s career. Nowhere is this better seen than in the institution’s expansive hall, where walls of Sillman’s works, hung from the ceiling, run in straight lines, often emphasizing repeated graphical tropes and image elements, a summation of images that sets the artist’s work out as just that, a sustained act of labor, albeit clearly a labor of love.
Sillman’s exhibition is on view through January 6th.
— D. Creahan
Amy Sillman, Landline [Camden Arts Cenre]