Nashville-based artist Anna Jaap discusses her current body of work. The Resonance of Beauty will be on display at Tinney Contemporary until May 11, 2013. We will be hosting a closing reception on May 4 from 6-9 pm.
Whitney: What is a saral transfer and can you explain the process?
Anna Jaap: Saral transfer is a thin paper coated with graphite or a chalky color on one side. It’s typically used to transfer a design or drawing to another surface before being erased or painted over. I use it to create final drawing elements in the work. It removes the hand slightly from the work while still maintaining a physical connection to the surface. The line quality is delicate, but also purposeful. It has a wonderful elusiveness.
W: Where did you find the vintage wallpaper? Where did it come from?
A: I found it online, and thought I might use for collage. Vintage textiles and wallpapers have been a point of reference in my work for years, but I’ve always drawn and painted the patterns into the work. I love that art and life intersect there in an intimate way—in the clothes we choose to put on our bodies, and how we surround ourselves in personal spaces. It echoes my belief that beauty, however we each experience it, is vital to our well-being.
When the sample book arrived, I had no idea how I could use it. It sat for a long time. Then the idea for the drawings came, and they enchanted me— roses framed like specimens under a microscope, layering complex negative spaces on top of block-printed patterns, sending the paper forward with gentle irony as something new. And, of course, there was the connection to The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a landmark piece of feminist literature. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about these pieces is that they stir memories for viewers.
The paper is thick, but extremely fragile. I use one razor per cut when trimming the pages down for drawings. I’ve been parceling them out.
W: I noticed this recent work has a more subdued cold palette than previous. Can you please speak to the color choices and how it influences the subject matter?
A: I think it’s probably the reverse, that the subject matter influenced the color palette. In this case, I wanted associations with beauty as the focus. Vibrant colors could have easily taken center stage. A toned-down tertiary color selection creates a platform in a minor key that allows the viewer space to engage, and continues the idea of subjective relationships throughout the palette itself. There are subtle color shifts and balances in this body of work that unify a number of differing elements —very large and relatively small scale works, a variety of surface textures, painting and drawing, and some collage.
W: What are you exploring in this body of work? What ideas of beauty are you dealing with?
A: Beauty can be defined as “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.” It’s completely subjective. I choose forms, patterns, and themes in the work in large part because I find them to be beautiful. I wanted to bring that to the forefront, make it a focus, and explore it in a conscious way—like I would push the limits of a physical material like paint or charcoal.
I worked from a nature-based perspective of beauty (cultural ideas of beauty have been inspired by nature until fairly recently in history), and I turned up the volumes on the themes, pushing them as far as I felt could and still maintain an integrity in the work. So there are roses scattered in abandon across canvases and drawings, really luscious washes of color that reference the sky and water and land, elegant marks, and multiple layers of elements selected for their beauty. It’s an immersion, certainly—one that I hope sends the viewer away thinking about their own concept of beauty, and how it impacts their experiences.
W: How does the imagery of the rose play into the works?
A: Initially, I was drawn to the structure of it. Not only is it an iconic symbol of beauty, it has a powerful, spiraling symmetry that mirrors galaxies and tornadoes and any number of structures in the natural world. It’s also ambiguous— lovely and fragile, but wickedly thorny and notoriously difficult to grow. It’s the stuff of love and folklore, equally at home in a suitor’s bouquet or an arrangement to honor the dead. When I got beyond my concerns about roses being sentimental and overused, I found it a rich subject.
W: Can you explain the process of how you begin a piece? On average, how long does it take to complete a piece?
A: Sometimes I start with a concept, sometimes a material, sometimes with a color relationship upon which I want to elaborate. The drawing series began with an idea of continuing the narrative in the wallpaper. Two large-scale canvases ready to go now will begin with pouring and charcoal dust. Once the substrate is finished, then the composition and color palette will emerge as a response to the surface.
Completion times vary widely in the work. On average, I would say two or three months. I keep a number of works in process at once.
W: What is coming up next for you in your work? More of this same body of work or a new idea?
A: This body of work will segue into something new in short order. I have some ideas percolating about incorporating dry pigment, and pushing the scale more in the drawings on canvas. There’s always something new to explore in the work…I love that.