Lois Eby: Improvisation & Movement

West Branch Gallery
Mar 25, 2015 5:39PM

Non-representational art often asks us to see in a painting something we cannot see in the world. In the work of Lois Eby, the artist is asking us to see music.

Movement and motion have always been a part of art. Edgar Degas’ circus paintings conveyed the athleticism, grace, and movements of performers. And as in much of art history, Degas conveys a sense of movement and motion by representing the object or subject in action. Modernism showed artists they could make work that expressed energy and motion directly. Early Cubists like Jean Metzinger sought to capture the kineticism and vibrancy of life in painting. Danseuse au café (1912) shows a woman in a cafe. One reviewer called the work a “series of crescendos and diminuendos of greater or lesser abstraction.” This reference to music is apt as many of the early Modernists saw little distinction between art forms. Choreographers were painting with dance. Poets were drumming with words. And artists were painting music. Wassily Kandinsky said, “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammer, the soul is the piano with the strings.” From this tradition steps Lois Eby.

Eby paints music. Her paintings are veritable jam sessions of color, stroke, and movement. In “Six Improvisations in Black & Red”, she “improvises” brush strokes with black ink and red acrylic the way a jazz musician improvises a solo. Rich, black, brushstrokes set the tone. Ensos in each panel anchor the composition. Red dots accentuate the piece. Open white space brings in the air. The work begins and ends in the field of view, like a beautiful, solitary note.

Six Improvisations in Black & Red I
West Branch Gallery

This connection between painting and music, specifically the improvisation of American Jazz, is at the heart of Eby’s work. Her colors are often primary. Her compositions are rich with rhythms. Brushwork is informed by Zen ink paintings and Asian calligraphy. The result is a beautiful harmonic where paint plays against white space, gesture dances across the canvas, and music is made visual.

Lois Eby grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She spent her childhood summers on an island in northwestern Ontario. It was on that island, contemplating vast sky over expanses of water, far from the mainland and “civilization,” that her first profound experience of nature, and questions about what “nature” is, occurred. Now living in northern Vermont, Lois’ studio is attached to her home. In addition to exhibitions of her work, Lois has contributed drawings and paintings to books, magazines and a CD. Her work is in a variety of public and private collections. She has also been a commentator on the arts, women’s issues, and civil rights for Vermont Public Radio. Since 2009, Eby has been on the board of trustees of Grass Roots Art & Community Effort (GRACE) in Hardwick, Vermont. At Art Basel Miami Beach 2014, Art2o, spring water “packaged in an original work of art”, selected Eby’s Suite for a Day in March II for use on the bottle that pays homage to Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), considered the first artist to paint purely abstract works.

"Endless Beginnings: Non-representational Art Today" is on view at West Branch Gallery Jan. 24th - Apr. 19th. 

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