Vanessa Lam’s latest body of work takes its inspiration from author Rebecca Solnit’s characteristic method of layered storytelling—specifically Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby, which weaves together an eloquent and elegant story about stories—in order to develop her own complex, intertwined visual narratives.
Solnit states, “To tell a story is always to translate the raw material into a specific shape, to select out of the boundless potential facts those that seem salient.”
Lam’s paintings, each of which takes its title from a line in Solnit’s book, likewise translate the material of her everyday observations of texture, line, shape, and the emotions they evoke into colour, form, and movement. As Solnit also remarks, “Creation is always in the dark because you can only do the work of making by not quite knowing what you’re doing, by walking into darkness, not staying in the light. Ideas emerge from the edges and shadows to arrive in the light, and though that’s where they may be seen by others, that’s not where they’re born.” Solnit is Lam’s guide within the darkness before she returns to the light.
This latest series is also a response to Lam’s interest in Abstract Expressionism as well as the shape-making derived from her collage influences. Her gestures intentionally contrast hard-edged geometry and organic forms with paint splatters. Lam’s intuitive process lends itself to spontaneity and the unknown. The title of the exhibition, “A Handmade Night,” references this process of embracing the unknown and is a follow-up to her previous body of work “There is Another Sky”.