‘As is well known, the word ‘orbit’ refers to a set route or path around a given point: we on earth orbit the sun, just as the moon orbits us. Perhaps less known, though, is that the word is etymologically coupled with a distinct sense of the optical: from a fourteenth century French word for ‘eye socket’. Seeing, in this understanding, is always underscored by a sense of movement or voyaging: when we look at someone or something, we simultaneously tread a track around it. Perhaps we come close to this object, but we don’t get to touch it. [continued below]
I kept this double meaning in mind when thinking about Diana Copperwhite’s recent paintings. In this latest exhibition, Crooked Orbit, these are large and at least initially discordant works. It seems as though no colour has been left aside, from lurid fuchsias and cobalt blues, to neon yellow and swatches of minty green. Recurring throughout the canvases, there is also a gradient effect achieved by loading the brush with different shades of paint; and this has a consequence of suggesting that these paintings have almost outgrown the tools of their creation, those tools then being forced to convey, through colour, as much as they possibly can. Sometimes these gradient interventions are vertical and regular; at others, they are less uniform, cast in a halting semi-circle or upturned ‘u’. Throughout, they act to create the impression of space within the paintings: in one, a narrow swathe of grey, pink and white, has the look of an outstretched arm, a slight sag in the middle where the elbow could be; in another, a flat vertical plane of what looks like four gradient drags cuts a dint of architectural space. But, even when working in unison, each of these is just one gesture, loaded to capacity and worked until it dissipates, the paint run out or stopped short from further decline. Representation is at most, never quite; cast as it is though a series of distinct marks, the whole remains fragmentary, gestured towards but never quite pinned down’.
An exhibition of work which posits the idea that creativity exists in not knowing, maybe the answer is “I can’t o on, I’ll go on”. Risk is imperative, but we still know very little about the potential of what works and why. The pendulum has always swung between abjection and elation. Qualities such as tenderness and humour connect this ensemble, a conversation often overlooked in favour of what can be read or justified. An exhibition showing a particular group of artists, who look to possess these qualities, inhabit new and old at the same time. History is apparent in a show like this but so is the future through the prism of the present.
The title refers to the Peter Bogdanovich film of 1971 “The Last Picture Show” which was shot entirely in black and white, harking back to an earlier time (again old and new) populated with a soundtrack of pop songs and presenting actors including Cybil Shepherd and Cloris Leachman at different stages of their respective careers in dialogue together. There seems no reason for the town they inhabit in the film (set in 1951) to exist, but the directness and simplicity of the depiction creates a space which allows for dialogue and a kind of transgression to occur.
Thomas Jaeckel Gallery is pleased to present Diana Copperwhite’s “Depend on the Morning Sun”. The exhibition features new large oils on canvas. This is the artist’s third solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition effectively extends the continuum of abstractions in color that have engaged the artist in recent years. Fusing schematic shapes and fragments, her apparent abstractions recall a flash of connections through time, or maybe a glimpse of switching of identities, or the way an interior, or an external, space may be seen via moving digitized images. We are drawn by the vivid light and color of her paintings and are left with a test in our bringing an identification of her imagery.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a monograph with an essay by Gail Levin.“Diana Copperwhite makes big bold oil paintings that excite and stir our twenty-first-century perceptions. Her compelling images are both complex and energetic. She is never at a loss for the impulse to paint, though she is coy about revealing her concerns, often throwing the viewer just a few clues and leaving a lot of room for the imagination. She creates an exquisite tension between abstraction and figuration or representation of any kind. She appears to tease out this tension to hold our interest, as we both take in the visual splendor of her paintings and try to fathom what they are about.” Excerpts from Essay. Gail Levin PhD, Professor of Art History, American Studies, and Women Studies at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of CUNY.Diana Copperwhite, born 1969, lives and works in Dublin. Copperwhite has exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad. Recent solo exhibitions include Driven by Distraction, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, 2016, A Million and One Things Under the Sun, Kevin Kavanagh, Dublin, 2015, Shadowland, Thomas Jaeckel, New York, 2014, solo presentations at PULSE NY, 2015 where she was nominated for the PULSE prize and at Volta NY, 2013. Copperwhite was awarded the AIB Art Prize in 2007 and her work is held in many important public collections, including the Office of Public Works, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Arts Council of Ireland, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Dublin Institute of Technology as well as private collections in Ireland, across Europe and in the United States.
When describing Diana Copperwhite’s work Colm Toibin wrote:
“Her work is about painting first and foremost; [these] references merely serve a purpose. Thus digital images which freeze and fragment an original image fascinate her, but such images in themselves are not enough, they provide a way into the painting. It is their visuality which inspires rather than any precise sense of a blurred or fragmented reality. Because she physically likes making paintings, everything is subservient to what paint will achieve.”
Copperwhite makes paintings that move fluidly between representation and abstraction. Photographs, montage and assemblage all aid the process and become ancillary works that pin down fleeting thoughts, glimpses and reactions to a media saturated age. Her interests and sources are eclectic and wide ranging, from social media to philosophical debate to art historical references. Yet, as Toibin points out, her paintings are no more about the image than they are about the process of painting itself. Her work is phenomenological in that momentarily emotional responses override the need to capture reality. Something has piqued her interest and from that initial interest she thinks in colour, in tone, and texture, in setting herself a visual problem to which there is no single definitive solution. Her palette is composed of murky undertones punctuated by bright neon rifts. The fluidity and expressiveness of the painting gives little hint of the rigorous and formal abstract principles applied to the making.
Diana Copperwhite studied Fine Art Painting at Limerick School of Art and Design and the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. She completed an MFA at Winchestor School of Art, Barcelona in 2000. Diana is a tutor at the National College of Art and Design,Dublin. Her work is in the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Arts Council of Ireland, and also in collections in the United States, Europe and Australia.
The writer Colm Toibin is currently Irene and Sidney B Silverman Professor of Humanities at Columbia University. He is an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award prizewinner, and has appeared on the Booker shortlist, most recently in 2013 for his play the Testament of Mary.