observing abstract art

What I saw: a response to painter Jennie Kiessling by Jennifer Davey


Yes, I would be thrilled to continue our letter correspondence-transitioning from the hand-written to the digital. I also hope that those who have enjoyed seeing the hand-written correspondence at Artworks for the exhibit Metaphor: the Inner Reaches of Outer Space, will now have the opportunity to follow on-line.

Read Jennie's first online letter here.

Your connections to Clyfford Still's painting 1951-52 and Robert Irwin's Untitled, 1969 are such obvious links to your current work. In both of these works Still and Irwin hold a center space. This space reflects the energetic core of who we are, while visually expanding outward powerfully and subtly. I find the same qualities in your work. 

The striking thing about your observation of these connections to your work, is how these artworks have been germinating in your body for over 30 years. Now their influence naturally emerges in your artwork. This reminds me of our conversation about ancestral memory and the deep knowledge our cells hold in our bodies. The other thing that strikes me so clearly is how powerfully each of these works is about the body, the energetic body. I felt this energy when standing in front of your blue and yellow drawing in the studio the other day-this mass of tightly packed lines awake and subtly alive-held together by this thin red center line. 

In the same way you were charged up by our spontaneous studio critique, I also was illuminated by your observations of the painting I am working on.

painting in currently in progress in the studio April 2016

painting in currently in progress in the studio April 2016

Suddenly the painting and its meaning were obvious to me. The starkness and almost painful nature of the painting rang true. The gold strip of squares to the right reading as a spine, almost a scrunched spine, and acting as a witness to the red collage bits to the left, all on a stark white background-ripe for observation. In thinking of the body, I felt a lack of alignment, the heart outside the body. It was painful to recognize but also wonderful as it opened up the door to re-alignment. That night I read the following quote:

When we look, we see that wanting creates tension that it is actually painful. We see how it arises out of our sense of longing and incompleteness, a feeling that we are separate and not whole. Observing more closely we notice that it is also fleeting, without essence. This aspect of desire is actually a form of imagination and accompanying feeling that comes and goes in our body and mind. -Jack Kornfield

For me it also was a profound reminder of the power of painting to see what is true before I am able to see it and integrate it into my own being. Paintings always talk back when one takes the time to sit, listen, and observe. The spontaneous studio critique also reminded me of the importance of taking time to share the work with others. With attentive viewing, the work really comes alive and its meanings begin to unfold. This is why I am so looking forward to our One Painting at a Time event this Saturday!