Philippa Blair


Philippa Blair at Double Vision Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

TRANSMOTION is the first solo exhibition in her adopted home by New Zealand-born, Los Angeles-based artist Philippa Blair. The show is divided into two sections. In the front gallery, the immediate impression is one of energy- Blair’s signature. Indeed vigor, as much intellectual as it is physical and emotional, is symptomatic of this artist’s perennial painterly experiment and engagement with her varied environments.This is reflected in BUSHWALK (2000) and CROSSWINDS, SANTA ANAS (2000) (see www.
Blair paints with her supports on the ground; constantly moving both her paint and person around these. Some of the TAOS, New Mexico series of small ‘red’ paintings are exhibited flat on a shelf- the way they were painted. Similarly, in the back room, Blair’s ink, collage, and mixed-media drawings sit in several piles on a shelved recess open to handling and scrutiny. But the walls of both spaces carry Blair’s translations of the rhythms and pulses she has touched in her recent travels.
This exhibition reveals Blair to be an abstract choreographer and soul-searcher. In both her paintings and drawings she moves us across, through, and beyond painterly surfaces, using marks reminiscent of musical notation, compass pointers, zephyrs, and calligraphies that suggest dance, invite meetings, propose points of departures and directions. Her work also addresses layered grounds: of everyday and other journeys. Bold ventures such as SKYWEAVER (1999) BUSHWALK proposition us to dance off into the wilderness freedoms that exist just either side of the circuit board freeways and the cybernetic 9-to-5 world evoked in WILD GOOSE CHASE, TARGET, or INTERSECTION (all 2000). These last three works in particular conjure the perennial adjustments and relocations necessary within any life or metropolis with its unrelenting white rush. Consider these driven rhythms and contrast them with the more organic energies of TYPHOON,CATALINA, and RIO HONDO, Deep River(all 2001).
One begins to sense Blair’s drive deep into the heart of a well-loved (desert )space.

Blair’s works do not recommend or dictate the desert space and warmth over the cityscape: they are more than site-specific or ‘certain’ geographies. By their visceral nature they are paint-soundings about possibilities and uncertainties(real life), rather than charted routes or definite destinations.These are performances and journeys.
Recently as in PIVOT (2000) or PIRUETA (2001) ( . Blair has begun to use a trowel in a simple pivoting gesture, excavating her paint, its time and space. The resulting spheres and swirls play alongside the poured and splashed and ‘danced’ paint, creating a new syncopated rhythm of full-and half-turns, and varied pulse and time values.

As the exhibition suggests, these works also explore condensed physical, emotional, and psychological senses of and responses to, more than any given- be it a studio or any other environment. Primarily, the work concerns attentions attuned, alerted to, and tensed by, the universal mechanics of movement. And since movement IS the very epitome of life these works reflect exactly that-life in all its molecular complexity.

Perhaps nowhere is this sensation of various and converging levels of consciousness more apparent than in DESERT HOT SPRUNG (2000). The title teases, alluding to a specific. Nevertheless, this painting offers something deeper than tellurian swathes of scorched yellow. DESERT HOT SPRUNG is of the earth and yet beyond such confines. Willy paint spirits have diced and played here. Contrary pathways, some rigid, some dribbled, dual back and forth: above, below, and between, creating a simultaneity of time and space. DESERT HOT SPRUNG could be a desert of sand: equally, it could be a city, or an aching heart, or a body caught and extended by this century. This multiplicity, Blair’s metaphoric achievement, springs from her ability to translate our sense of quandary (our lives) into multivalent topographies(dances of paint), through which we may or may not move.

Blair’s painterly synesthesia(her tendency to see sounds, to hear color, and to paint movement-reminiscent of Alan Pearson) is expressed in non-object forms that have a surprisingly sculptural presence. Paint has been applied at various tempos creating what can only be described as painterly music reminiscent of the work of acclaimed New Zealand-born artist Len Lye , or Arnoldo Ginna or Oskar Fischinger, masters of color music.

By comparison with Blair’s characteristically large concerto canvases, these latest paintings are intimate, exciting sonatas. Their marks and colors resonate. They confirm that Blair continues to orchestrate not only her own way-through an endless landscape of ‘desert’ and/or skyscrapers, of freeways and lattices of urban sprawls-but also OUR ways- through the psycho-geographies and tectonic shifts that move all modern life. The result is a multiple perspectives; a music of chromatic simultaneity.

The works in TRANSMOTION (www. are celebrations of life and movement. Wholly identifiable objects are absent; only successive levels of (incorporeal and gestural) drawing presents us with possibilities. The drawings and paintings offer exercises in swiftness and subtlety- in the sight of sounds and the sense of shapes around us. They are the product of an agile mind and a body alert to the brief but dynamic pulse we call life.

Cassandra Fusco

ASIAN ART NEWS 94 November/December 2001