Monday, September 8, 2008

Essay: Anna Redwine

April Nesting Wasp, 2007
Carbon on primed panel
13 x 24 in.
$ 600

by Wim Roefs

Anna Redwine’s current show is the latest installment of a body of “animal art” that includes Life In One Breath, her if ART exhibition in March 2006 at Vista Studios/Gallery 80808. The works then and now are two-dimensional renderings of small animals – insects, birds, fish – set against a white expanse. They amount to drawings with the presence of paintings. 

Redwine draws them from life, hauling prepared panels into the outdoors, looking for creatures that crawl, fly, swim or just hang around. The work in the current show she created in April during a residency at Paris Mountain State Park, just outside of Greenville, S.C.

“I draw life,” Redwine says. “I use the word ‘draw’ to mean ‘extract’, like ‘to draw blood’ or ‘draw a breath’. I distill the life of the subject through mark making. Because in this endeavor my most honest marks are the first ones, the drawings on these panels are collections of only the raw, initial renderings of life.”

“Each panel contains only one individual animal, drawn several times. One beetle, one spider, one bird. These drawings are not pictures of the physical structure of animals – rather, they are documents of a focused experience of empathy with another living thing.”

The rawness and honesty of Redwine’s marks might be enhanced by the smallness of her subjects. Their size and scale is far removed from Redwine’s, making her experience with the critters fresher and newer than would be the case with, say, cows or horses. Ideally, the critters are unaware of Redwine’s presence when she draws them, creating a shared experience that goes one way rather than being mutual. 

The large amount of negative space in the works – the unpolluted white space – further emphasizes Redwine’s marks and, therefore, the subjects’ activities and life. For one, of course, the marks in black and shades of gray, and the animal life that appears from them, stand out against all the white. But also, the white space indicates where Redwine could have gone and what she could have done but didn’t. This increases the focus on what she did do.

Rendering one animal several times is one of the differences between the current work and that in Life In One Breath. So is the horizontal orientation of the panels. The single renderings on a vertical plane in the earlier show added a portraiture quality to the work, even though those, too, were about the animals’ lives more than their looks. 

The multiple renderings in the current work give the viewer additional looks into the subjects’ life – each rendering literally and figuratively adding life. With the horizontal orientation of the panels, this repetition takes the imagery away from portraiture, with its quiet quality, and from merely looking at the subjects. Instead, there’s a suggestion of habitat, of life in action in a specific place and of sharing that space. That the horizontal format may trigger associations with the landscape increases the feeling of being in another place – a place shared with the animals.

No comments: