Albertz Benda is pleased to present Ena Swansea: New Paintings, the first exhibition at the gallery of American painter Ena Swansea, on view from October 27 to December 17, 2016. Expanding her formal and material vocabulary, Swansea has created a series of large-scale works that incorporate subtle themes from the recent history of painting.
The culmination of two years of intense experimentation, the exhibition premieres a series of new paintings that blur the distinction between abstraction and figuration. In a nod to Abstract Expressionism and the New York School, she works on a large scale and pushes descriptive images – snow laden branches, velvet curtains, brick facades -to their limit, manipulating the structures on the canvas.
When viewed from afar, the swathes of color and light on the monumental canvases coalesce into images of contemporary life in New York City, inspired by photographs that Swansea has taken. She creates spaces that are simultaneously ethereal in their shifting forms while remaining grounded in the atmosphere and symbols of the city. In snow at night, dark grey snow nearly erases the tree supporting it, while pools of fluorescent brick red hint at the presence of a building in the background.
Swansea continually introduces effects normally associated with digital art and film and contrasts these elements with traditional painting techniques. She primes her canvas with a special graphite-mixture, which the artist, in collaboration with paint manufacturers, has developed over years. The reflective surface acts like a movie screen - the interplay between dull and glossy pigment application evokes a new image with every change of light. As in happy valley, where revelers appear to float in front of the picture plane, alternately emerging and sinking into shadow as in a subterranean nightclub. Combining realism and flowing fields of paint, a fresh approach emerges using a familiar set of materials.
Nothing in the paintings coheres in a way that could be reduced to a clear narrative or construed as allegory; Swansea’s works are somewhere between projection and remembrance, a composite of private visions, film stills, and snapshots expertly rendered.