In a New Exhibition, Abstract Paintings and Anthropomorphic Vessels Pair Perfectly
In ballet terms, a pas de deux is a duet. Two dancers perform a sequence in such excruciating synchronicity that it appears they are, for the fleeting moments they inhabit the stage, two halves of the same whole. This kind of creative coupling is what curator Kitty Clark had in mind when she put together her latest show, Soul Bed, featuring painter Hannah Nowlan and ceramic artist Tatsiana Shevarenkova, which just opened its doors at Saint Cloche Gallery in Sydney, Australia. “At Saint Cloche it is all about the contemporary narrative and as a curator, I’m always searching for the connection that you can find between two artists,” Clark explains of the concept behind the ‘pas de deux’ exhibition. “It is about creative thinking, not just what you see on the surface of the works but a deeper narrative or connection.”
Though both Nowlan and Shevarenkova practice in different mediums, there is a genuine dialogue between their work: the mineral-rich fields of color that make up Nowlan’s oil paintings — which are loosely abstracted interpretations of the Australian landscape, she tells us — mirror the soft curves of Shevarenkova’s vaguely anthropomorphic ceramic sculptures. “Technically as artists, I believe our practices share similar sensibilities and appreciation for materiality,” Shevarenkova says of the pairing. “The raw qualities of the mediums we work with are vital to the narrative of each piece.”
Using off-cut remnants of linen as color swatches, Nowlan’s paintings begins with “loose experimentation and studies, slowly developing a color palette that speaks directly to the concepts I wish to portray,” she says of her process. “I find inspiration can spark in the strangest of ways, from the pattern work on a found seashell to typographical maps or a feeling imbued by a specific place or memory.” Shevarenkova, though, is much more tactile in her approach. “I flow between movements,” she explains of how she develops her unglazed, coil-built forms, which she makes out of clay containing sand for added structural stability. “My imagination turns into satisfying curves. Once I’m pleased with the form, I work on the contours and the texture. It’s my favorite part of the process — refining the shape and giving the objects their character.” Inspired by the sculptural work of mid-century artists like Isamu Noguchi, Jean Hans Arp, Henry Moore, Constantine Brancusi, and Louise Bourgeois, “there is often an intimacy or tension between the body and those artists, which I believe is worth studying,” she says.
“With Tatsiana’s sculptures, I am reminded of being a woman, a mother, the feminine form — abundant, giver of comfort, fertile and fecund. It has a sense of security, protection and sanctuary. Hannah’s work evokes the earth; land and water, primordial, the layers of the natural world, a landscape of visual poetry,” Clark describes of the complementary aspects of the two women’s work. “Walking through the gallery, one could sense the points in which they intersect,” adds Shevarenkova. “The depth of my work was enhanced by Hannah’s earthy tonal choices. With mutual respect and love of nature, we are attracted to similar aesthetic sensations.”