“My subject is, in a sense, ‘formlessness,’ ” explains Erin McIntosh in a statement for New American Paintings, but the artist’s obsession appears to be with color.
McIntosh, whose improvisational approach to palette combines chromatic neutrals with variations of muted and deeply saturated tones—worked over in layers until, as she puts it, “they sing”—paints in a visual language that straddles representation and abstraction. Over time, she has developed a studio practice that is profoundly project-based, with multiple series spanning multiple years. She typically spends several months working into one before switching over to another. “There is always circling back to previous ideas,” she says. “It seems like color relationships and compositional structures become built from various parts of prior paintings.”
The paintings presented here constitute fewer than a quarter of the works currently belonging to McIntosh’s ongoing Geometric Series. Evocative of unseen realms and the riddles that often accompany discovery, many of these works echo the architecture of microscopic worlds, where faceted forms—hard-edged but alive, animated by molecular unfolding—make frequent appearances. In Isotropic Blue these configurations crowd the surface of the picture plane, their opacity seeming to speak to limits—to an ultimate impenetrability of matter; a cousin, Isotropic Green, offers an opposing conundrum by means of a nearly holographic transparency—an elusive glimpse of atomic infinity.
Not all of these works appear to explore a microverse. Some seem to zoom out to create sensations of physical and psychological distance for the observer. The autonomous structure at the center of Lilac Angle, for example, may summon to mind a cloudy galaxy obscured behind a slightly more proximate constellation, but the image might just as easily elicit the interminable suggestiveness associated with looking at a Rorschach print.
Copyright © 2017 by Erin McIntosh. Images appear courtesy of the artist.