Narratives in Blossoming Vigor draws on the relationship between the human form and nature in the work of five female contemporary painters. While the history of art’s entanglement with painting and the male gaze persists, these artists pursue the form taking historically female themes as their subject matter – flora, fauna, and the natural world. In so doing, their work becomes a vehicle for regrowth, identity and spirituality at a time when the symbol of botanical forms is quashed in lieu of technologically driven futures.
Sara Bonache is case in point. With their similarity to the work of Georgia O’Keefe, Bonache’s pastel flower forms eschew all direct representation of the body yet continue to evoke it as an underlying presence. In Fugas (Leaks), the pistil of a flower oozes and drips sensuously and flesh-like. Water, a symbol of life, manifests in Bonache’s flowers as the essence of growth and transformation. Her paintings appear bodily, imbued with a sense of fecundity.
Natalia Juncadella focuses her compositions on light and shadow, embracing her Colombian and Cuban roots through bright colour. Filtered through sharp sunlight, the organic and intricate silhouettes of plants hold court in her pictorial planes, often across the detailed ceramic tiles associated with households of hotter climates. The use of a flat 2D style reveals the artist’s background in graphic design, and lends the work a Hockney-esque dimension. These renderings of intimate spaces hone in on the calm and fleeting beauty of the everyday in an increasingly crisis enveloped world.
Bulbous, blobby and fruit-inspired forms centre the work of Kora Moya-Rojo. Defined by an oval geometry, her paintings border on the darker side of the surreal, accentuating a psychological aspect. Elongated hands appear and vivid tones intensify the subject matter. In Shelter, an amorphous vase-like vessel holds a selection of drooping flowers, with a fish curling around its side. Here, we see a symbolic kinship with Bonache’s drips –Moya-Rojo also points to the origin of life in affinity, but in a rejuvenation from the toxicity that her deep tones of colour allude to.
Conversely, the weight of Moya-Rojo’s works is offset by the light and sinuous nature of Jess Xiaoyi Han. Abstract in style, Xiaoyi Han employs pale colour and curlicue lines to introspect. Self-reflective, they are suggestive of mood, or the manifestation of a line of thought. As one peers close, seemingly recognisable forms take shape – a spherical pearl or bubble, a floating Lily pad, like vines attenuated lines twist and turn, water ripples outward. It is unclear if these manifestations levitate in space or are submerged in a lagoon. These indistinguishable forms are only suggested, not completely committed to canvas, allowing the viewer to project their own thoughts like a Rorschach Inkblot test.
In contrast, Sally Jerome’s geometric style offers the viewer the control and self-containment that Xiaoyi Han denies, in her depictions of sprouting vegetation found in an urban environment. Inspired by the green life that finds its way to the surface of unexpected city spaces, Jerome paints with the similitude that one would build a house; methodically, brick upon brick. Emphasising the resilience of nature and its ability to flourish where one least expects, Jerome makes a case for the weed, the adaptable nature of plant life, and its parallels to human life in a post-pandemic world. The paintings of Narratives in Blossoming Vigor seek to harness symbolic magnitude between vegetal forms and the picture planes they inspire in a spirited vision of the present. Eliciting a compelling beauty, these works depict a complex vision of nature and womanhood. Through a reification of form, they simultaneously reflect on the elusive, organic nature of paint itself.
Gwen burlington is an Irish writer and co-editor of art and literary journal Mirror Lamp Press.
SENS Gallery is pleased to present "Narratives in Blossoming Vigor", a group exhibitio five international female artists, including Jess Xiaoyi Han, Kora Moya-Rojo, Natalia Juncadella, Sally Jerome and Sara Bonache.
The exhibition is an exploration of the correlation between female artists’ internal self and external encounters with life, nature and the world. Stories are told through depictions of transitioning identities, where artists like Jess Xiaoyi Han, Kora Moya-Rojo and Sara Bonache’s practice have been energized by their experience as a woman in a foreign country: ebullient colour palettes encapsulate courage, vigor and power in their expressions. Natalia Juncadella and Sally Jerome reflect on growing up and living in cities of cultural renown, the flourishing plants speak the vitality of their surrounding nature, as well the persistence and resilience of being a woman.
Flowers and plants become lachrymators, buds releasing tears and blood drops in the works of Spanish painter Sara Bonache, conveying emotional intimacy to the audience. These flowers are her interpretations of finding comfort within the essence of nature.
Cacophonies of spiralling, string-like elements dominate the canvas, creating a visualisation of the thoughts and feelings of Chinese-born, New-York based artist Jess Xiaoyi Han. Emotions being constantly in transience, serenity flows along the dripping pigments.
New York artist Sally Jerome observes the revitalisation of nature in an industrially developing world after becoming a habitual walker on the onset of the pandemic. Through different rhythmic surfaces upon one another, she explores nature’s strength by representing humanity’s attempt at celebrating nature.
For Natalia Juncadella, the shapes of her painting layered over one another to create compositions emphasizing shadow and light. She takes inspiration from everyday observations, finding refuge and joy in the moment through objects as sources of reflection and contemplation.
A balance of complimentary tones provides a sense of vibrance and rejuvenation in the subject matter of Spanish artist Kora Moya-Rojo’s works. The brighter colours in her works highlight upon the toxicity of plants as a source of resilience, functioning to heal the plant back to its original, and more powerful state.
“Narratives in Blossoming Vigor” evokes the reinvigoration in need in the post-pandemic era and that it can blossom into a sense of hope. The curation explores the healing properties of nature, and the resilient spiritual energy the five female artists manifest. Nature endures and withstands the concrete ground from which it grows, sprouting stronger into a more powerful being, just like being a woman.