In Imperfect, her fifth solo exhibition at Callan Contemporary, Teresa Cole brings together patterns from disparate traditions in images of startling complexity and beauty. This body of work—a suite of intaglio etchings, woodcuts, and two installations, Black & White Patchwork and Infiltrate 2.0—stems from research the artist conducted last spring in Seville, Cordova, and Granada, Spain. There, in architectural masterpieces such as the Alhambra palace, she studied and documented intricate patterns adorning tilework, carved wood and plaster, wainscoting, stone flooring, and cut glass. Alternately geometric and arabesque (plant- based/organic), these motifs exemplify Moorish aesthetics, in which only the divine is considered perfect and artisans build small flaws into their designs to signify earthly fallibility. Cole has integrated many of these patterns into her existing lexicon of shapes, combining Old World printmaking techniques with digital photography, laser cutters, and CNC routers. “There’s a tension between these perfect, computer-formed lines and the imperfection of the hand,” she observes. “Those imperfections are evidence of our humanity.”
Cole earned a B.F.A. degree from Maryland Institute College of Art and an M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art, then continued her studies as a member of Peacock Printmakers in Aberdeen, Scotland. Currently she is full professor at Tulane University, where she teaches all aspects of printmaking. She has conducted research and participated in residencies in India, South Africa, Nepal, Belgium, Spain, and throughout the U.S. and has been commissioned to create large-scale public artworks, most recently a sculptural installation at the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane. Her works are included in prestigious private, corporate, and institutional collections around the world.
Cole’s prints are densely layered, rich with a translucence and texturality that reward close viewing. Their thematic content is also highly layered, sometimes juxtaposing or overlaying Roman and Arabic scripts—as well as symbols from Asia, Africa, and the Americas—into images of poignant cross-cultural mélange. Technically innovative and pictorially opulent, the artworks posit a fluidity between ornamentation and language, visual seduction and conceptual grounding, and pattern as both decorative and narrative devices. One need not speak foreign tongues or be versed in art history to appreciate these pieces, however, for they communicate directly and subliminally with the viewer’s perception and subconscious. “Maybe it’s possible,” Cole suggests, “to learn about something simply by looking at it.”
by Richard Speer