Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Artwork of Lisa Vincenzo

For those of you who have seen or read this preview review sent out by the NCLAG, just skip to the second part….

Part One (Written as a pre-review of her work a few weeks ago….)
For an artist, the ability to make spontaneous markings is an essential skill. The gift to have them be successful is rare. Most of our sketchbooks and scribbles, are just that, notes for future reference.  Sometimes we happen upon a doodle that “works”, it exists on the page as a complete image, possessing all the elements of a quality piece.  Those pages are a treat. An artist soon to be showing at the North Canton Little Art Gallery has that gift of successful spontaneous imagery and not just in one media, but in several. Lisa Vincenzo records moments in time. I mentioned her work in my review of the recent May Show and come to find that she is not a “new” artist in the sense of being a younger member of our community, but a woman of about my age that just did not see any reason to put her work out there for us to enjoy. With some mentoring and encouragement by gallery director Elizabeth Blakemore, we will get the opportunity to peer into her sketchbooks.

The pieces I have seen are not literally pages from a sketchbook so don’t be expecting rough edges or torn out pages as some of her works are created digitally using an I-pad. Now you all know how I feel about the use of such devices to create artwork, but sometimes one must step back from personal bias (probably from ignorance and envy more than anything) and see the hand of artist.

Other pieces are traditional ink and wash (and drawing media) on paper, with all the raw, fresh, bold markings of a skilled observer.  Her study of horses is not the typical delicate record of the head often seen by those who choose that subject. Her drawing records the mass and movement of these animals with thick lines and jagged edges, a wash of toned ink causing other marks to bleed, forcing one of the animals into the background. The final result does not feel planned which is what makes it so beautiful. A second ink drawing of four women playing violins captures a distinct personality in each one of the ladies. To do that quickly and without marks of hesitation is very difficult. Once again her use of the space on the page is instinctual and intriguing as one senses the depth of the scene and the drama of their interaction.  Can you tell I am impressed? Yes, I get judgmental because I am old school… the ability to draw is still my personal yardstick for those who “can and are” and those who “want to be and really aren’t”.  There are natural born artists, there are those who make art, and there those who make stuff.  Sure, drawing can be taught, but drawing from life and doing it well, cannot. You either got it or you don’t. Lisa Vincenzo has got “it”. 

The pieces where she adds color to her washes are just as fresh. Too often artists will apply layer upon layer of wash and loose the crispness of the markings and disregard the effect of the paper underneath. Her washes are thin, allowing colors to bleed in some areas while building a weave of markings in others. The bones of her piece in the form of an ink sketch remains on view most of the time, guiding the location of her washes. The application of a single brushstroke full of color, defining a shape just once and not to be altered again shows a masterful knowledge of the media. No pencil lines guide her, no added pieces of paper or materials force the paint to do something else, she just lays down her scene and moves on.

I only got to preview one piece of her digital work but found no real difference between how she uses a brush and how she uses her fingers. The markings are the same, only how the machine makes color and line appear on paper are different. The use of shapes and space as well as the essence of good composition are all present, it is the final presentation which changes to a more commercial appearance, much like the silk screens of pop art. The final result is almost a Matisse like rendering. I have to say I like it because the image is not “flat”, it is still “sketchy”.  Seems I may have to find some new words to define how digital drawings are described, the future is upon me and I just have to get used to it.

Overall, I am excited about this upcoming show. Once her work is seen by others I am sure she will feel confident enough to start entering more shows and selling her pieces.

Part Two (After viewing the actual work currently on exhibition at the North Canton Little Art Gallery….)          

Seeing the works in person is necessary to fully appreciate their delicate and direct markings for they are even more stunning in context of scale and visual gradation, something not attainable by viewing only digital images. Techniques I did not get to preview such as the Haunted Kitties Series is simply amazing. Despite what I said in the preview review, many of the pieces on view actually were taken directly from her sketchbooks and framed for this show. Lisa is not completely comfortable with sharing her work so Gallery Director Elizabeth Blakemore went above and beyond in her mentoring and preparation for this exhibition by the time all was said and done. Less NFS and more $ would be nice, but not everyone is ready to part with their own souls.

I want to highlight a few pieces here and point out that "little gem of mark" which raises the bar on what is considered spontaneous sketching. Start with “Airport”, an India ink drawing of people waiting for a plane. Two things to note are the unconnected neckline of a figure in the upper left and the shape of an old man’s profile in the lower right. 99% of us would probably have connected the neckline so as to anchor the head, which currently floats, but such a line would have been unnecessary and end up overworking the gesture. The profile of the man in the foreground is simply filled in as a dark shadow, forcing the viewer’s eye back into the picture frame. Her drawing of the line to contain the shape and shadow has no hesitation marks. None of her work has any hesitation marks which is truly amazing.

“Rain Storm / Green Sea Ocean” is a pencil sketch which uses quite a bit of pressure changes on the pencil itself to create depth and tonality. A technique difficult to teach, one has the innate understanding to do this, or they don’t. The male figure in the lower left could be right out of a Manet painting.  “Spirit Horse” is a watercolor that if untitled, would be a bit ambivalent, but with the title the viewer is drawn into the shapes, and the spaces they create, by the use of the media itself. How or where one sees a horse, if it so exists at all, is irrelevant really as this work should prove to those reluctant ones out there why we as artists should not leave works untitled. A view pieces to spend time upon as well are “Midas Breaks Free” and “Woman with Red Umbrella”.

Media used include lithograph, charcoal, conte, pencil, watercolor, India ink and I-pad. The majority of the pieces are current within the last three years but a few from the late 80’s and mid 90’s are included which further prove that her marking is a natural gift as it does not vary all that much by the passage of time.

Overall, this show is not to be.missed as I don’t know when or if Lisa Vincenzo will ever allow us to view her work this way again. Meanwhile, I will share a vintage sketch of my own from decades past. I have kept all my sketchbooks since childhood. Won't my kids be happy about that!

Judi Cooke sketchbook drawing circa 1978 - magic marker

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