Alex Calinescu

October 01 2006

Alex Calinescu

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Residency 2006 

London, 6-28 October 2006  


Before leaving the UK for her residency at the Albers Foundation in April 2006 Alex Calinescu had 88 small etching plates made, one for each day she would spend at the isolated Connecticut studio. The decision to mark the time spent there in the record of the prints is reflective of the way Calinescu generally works, developing related series of images within formal parameters that have gradually been reduced to simple elements: line and coloured ground. 

Further than this visual diary she had little sense of how she might respond to the experience of the residency, which provides the artist a large studio and living space located in over 70 acres of woodland near New Haven. 

Calinescu recalls arriving after a late spring fall of snow, the forest of silver birch trees a leafless, uncluttered grid of vertical planes. She talks of long, solitary walks, the palpable silence and of how the immense studio window gave the sense of being able to pass effortlessly in and out of the landscape. 

Weeks of concentrated, uninterrupted work allowed a kind of freedom to progress ideas with a speed she had not previously experienced. Working at night on small scale images Calinescu experimented with various processes, incising lines into the surfaces of painted boards in a reversal of the processes she was using on the larger scale canvases. 

How the experience of the residency entered the work is measured less in formal changes within the paintings than in the clarity and force of their emotional impact. Though they are rooted in the experience of being in the sensory world (light and space are certainly implicit) the images are not attempts to represent or equate to natural phenomena. Their tension comes from the most subtle of nuances: how a line appears against a tone, how a shape registers at a certain scale, where the viewer finds themselves in relation to the size of the support. The paintings are the result of a kind of game of consequences, the potential for emotional effect dependent upon relationships that may, or may not, happen during the actions and decisions of process.  

It takes courage for an artist to work in this kind of pared down playing field where the surface of a seven feet canvas will magnify any hesitancy, but if achieving a resonance in pictorial space can be seen as the minimum requirement for a successful painting, a great many of Calinescu's recent images have more than hit their mark. 

The best have a kind of vividness, the authenticity of images discovered during the process of making things happen. Within their formal confines and muted tones they show with great eloquence that a mark upon a surface, a line, can suggest closure, openness, outside, inside. They prove that the simplest of elements can carry an emotional charge. 

Emma Hill 2006