Written by Salvatore Schiciano
Ambiguity is a key component in the work of artist and poet Simone Kearney, and often it is difficult to define what is a painting, a performance, or a poem. Kearney’s explorations feed cyclically into her content as well as into her form. For example, a word, shaped into a metaphor stretches the solidity of its definition, whereas the materials that makes up a painting would likely be less suggestive.
Kearney’s “Parts Of Parts,” a series begun last year, is a painterly process at once, simple and complex. Rectangles of unstretched muslin are painted with water-based dyes and acrylics, than sewn into grids consisting of twelve panels. Each section presents a binary of two colors that collide and mingle at diluted horizons so as to suggest peaks, valleys, mountains, wind, and waves. The assembled sketch-like iconography, presented serially, create a vacillating effect for the viewers.
The inspiration for this series comes from Amergin Glúingel’s The Song of Amergin, believed to have been the first Irish poem. It opens “I am the wind on the sea / I am the stormy wave” and continues for 20-some lines as the warrior bard poet diffuses and absorbs himself (the “I”) across land, sea, animal, and even words. Kearney, born and raised in Ireland, echoed the expression in her muslin paintings of the wind and sea. Yet not in a literal or representational way but iconographically and metaphorically keeping with the theme of ambiguity.
Her coloring is beautifully complementary, reminiscent of Edward Avedisian or Friedel Dzubas, yet references to land and sea could suggest Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson. The motivating factor for her palette though is time, or the coloring of moments. It informs the panels of Kearney’s tapestries. The slightest changes in light and humidity can drastically alter the hues of a seascape. The calendar-like grid arrangement echoes this shift, making a moment in time a metaphor of pigment. So the calendar becomes an unfixed swatch and Kearney’s impressions recount Monet’s series of La Cathédrale de Rouen.
The most striking characteristic in Kearney’s series is the literal and metaphoric application of the materials. The colliding, dispersing, diluting, and fractalizing of water-based mediums reiterates the nature of waves while representing the icon of water. Kearney is more like a hydrometeorological transcriber (someone tracking the behavior of water) and less the author of these natural interactions.
In a very genuine sense this series represents the inherent artistry of nature. With natural grace the materials in Parts of Parts are transformed into a Poetry of Materiality. A viewer’s prolonged gaze can continue to shift from the form to its content and from or a panel to the whole and back. The paintings, in vacillating between the parts and the whole keeps these motifs forever written on water.
Simone Kearney continues to paint variations of this series which is part of her growing exploration into ambiguity, sameness vs. difference, and the complications of categorization -- naming and definition.
Copyright Simone Kearney. Image courtesy of the artist.