Perambulating the Bounds

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Getting to alchemy


Connie Noyes is clearly a passionate artist. This takes the form of reusing leftover paint, collecting the merest scraps of debris for use in her art, and even the causes she supports like African AIDS orphans. They have something in common—multiple manifestations of a desire to find a place for what has been discarded.

All of the work in Noyes’ show at Estel (“Re-fuse/Ref-use”) incorporates debris of some sort–everything from fishing line filament and scraps of tape to small chunk of architectural molding and cast-off equipment parts. While it all inevitably uses collage and assemblage techniques, she has pursued 3 or 4 methods of composition and construction in this show, each with its own look.

One bunch of the works (or maybe two, depending on how you count), involves combining painting and found objects all encased in a thick resin. Several elongated panels are flat enough to be mistaken for pure painting until you see the objects embedded in them. A thin detail line comes from fishing line, not pencil marks. In another approach to using resin to meld disparate elements, she produced a series of small panels each of which incorporates a piece of material taken from a building near her in Paducah, KY that was being destroyed (she’s offering a portion of the sale of these panels to a charity that supports African AIDS orphans).

Noyes relies more on construction techniques in a series of panels that incorporate a single object or a small number into compositions with simple, often monochromatic color schemes. A metal brush from some machine sticks out of a surface covered with a sheet of perforated metal. The entire background is covered in gray paint applied with a dry matte surface—most of the pieces in this series have that paint quality, which contrasts with the slickness of the other pieces. These pieces share a compositional simplicity with the panels using the building debris, both of which contrast with the complex patterns in the other resin cased pieces.

Finally, there are several pieces in which Noyes builds up a central circular form that crowds the frame by piling up bits of shredded material slathered in multicolored paint. Each work uses something different for that shredded material—plastic bags, plastic bottles, roofing paper, email messages. While the material is different in each piece, the effect comes out the same. They all look like thick impasto oil built up to the point where the paint is three dimensional, like a Jay DeFeo painting.

The first 2 (or 3) series are carefully composed and polite. The steel brush is placed carefully just off center on a square background, tastefully asymmetrical, with a circular pattern in the background to echo the brush. In compositions where she uses roofing paper, it is incorporated into calm abstractions. The color of it is heavy and dark, but the resin reduces the visceral sense of texture, smoothes it out. The safe abstractions in combination with slick surfaces are aesthetically offputting. The resin casing gives the pieces the cold feel of having been manufactured. Some pieces include graphite powder, but the organic graininess is lost under this surface. And the matte surfaces in the assemblages are so even, they seem air-brushed. The artist’s hand is hard to discern and missed.

The variety of materials is entertaining – look at what I’ve found, let’s see what we can do with it. But once you accept the materials as parts of an art work (and Lord knows artists have been picking up material and sticking it in art for a long time), they are less surprising in terms of composition, the range of sensory experience and meaning.

Where Noyes really lets go are in the pieces with the masses of shredded material. These are messier, more complex, and more effusive. All of her pieces tend to equalize materials as they become part of her collages and assemblages, but the equivalence goes furthest when she shreds the material and piles it up. In the other pieces, the incorporated objects are still identifiable. The shredded stuff could be anything, and it takes on completely different characteristics. Heavy, spiky, and complicated even though it might have started out as light, smooth, clear plastic. Thanks to associations like Jay DeFeo, the many kinds of material all look like paint. It’s at this point that some alchemy starts to take hold, and it raises the stakes in Noyes’ work.

2 Comments:

  • Hello David,

    Thank you for taking the time to review my work. I appreciate yur comments and the historical link to Jay DeFeo. She is certanly one of my heros. It is interesting, as the artist i have the same bias as you towards the more textural work that is built up with lots of resin and paint.

    However, this work was all very experimental and new work for me, so i was playing with variations on a theme.

    You stated, "The safe abstractions in combination with slick surfaces are aesthetically offputting. The resin casing gives the pieces the cold feel of having been manufactured. Some pieces include graphite powder, but the organic graininess is lost under this surface. And the matte surfaces in the assemblages are so even, they seem air-brushed. The artist’s hand is hard to discern."

    I am glad you found them offputting. that was part of the point. I was definately playing off the contradiction between the two surfaces...the commercial like resin surface and the surface underneath. You would have to look very closely to discern "the artis's hand", but there is still evidence of this on the surface. I stuck my thumb print in many of the pieces and made the pour of resin uneven in places on purpose. I was only interested in the illusion of a commercial like surface. It was important to the work that the surface was not pristinely perfect.

    Also, part of my interest was in creating this illusion of a commercial object - with the high gloss seduction that is so popular in this culture. In using this suface in combination with trash that is either no longer commercial, was at best utilararian rather than seductive and probably would never have been considered beautiful, calls into question the whole idea of beauty and usefulness. This is actually a theme that occurs quite often in my work. It is subtle, but I think as an artist I work to manipulate the viewer to be put off and seduced at the same time. I am not interested in hitting anybody over the head with obvious conflict. There is too much of this in our world today. I want people to LOOK at the work...My hope is that the viewer questions why someone would make such an object and once they discover the answer for themselves, falls in love with their own discovery.

    So other questions I was asking in the work are, Where is the line between what is beautiful and honored and what is ref-use (trash) and re-fused (ignored) and in our society?...and how does one make the leap from one side to the other..?

    Again I thank you for you comments..

    By Anonymous Connie Noyes, at 1:36 PM  

  • Connie,
    Thanks for responding back, and in such depth. This is how these darned blogs are supposed to work!
    D

    By Blogger David Maddox, at 4:31 PM  

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