Where Colors Bloom From Grey
“Creation is grey”, as a Polish poet says it, “and sometimes it merely catches light. Other times it blooms.”
It is my first fine thought while looking at the works of Kim Oliveros. It’s this very mood of greyness shining through, a knowing mask pressed on these vivid faces of invention. It’s a kind of greyness that speaks and yet does not say much. It wants to reveal— perhaps one’s identity, a broadening artistry, sense and philosophy, influences, a personal life, and the true heart kept behind his art. And yet it’s difficult to know.
This greyness relates to the grid of canvases where I can imagine how the painter’s brush is poised and strokes grow into images, life-like like lush white orchids. They take branch and root, are pruned, shaped and presented to the spectators, tender on the brink of criticisms and appreciation.
There is the portrait that I love. It catches my introspective eye. It’s called Saving Things That Eventually Die. It tugs the heartstrings of my own kind of visual admiration. Looking at it, I can sense remembrance straightaway, furiously surrendering and telling behind the elaborate exterior. There’s a nostalgic quality to it— how it appears on the surface like a novel representation of an Oriental portrait. And yet there’s more to this humble work. I wonder why colors are subdued. How flowers are carried and seem to mumble their eventual yellow fading, and how the face of the woman in a kimono freezes in the gentle feeling of discomfort, perhaps of knowing what is finite and holding it as long as she can. It’s as if she is holding on to these flowers that matter to her, her keepsakes.
While reading some essays he wrote, notes and anecdotes, there seems to be a profound and fundamental understanding, even poignant, to Oliveros’ maturing artistry. “It also signifies my attachment to my belongings that have sentimental value and transitioning into something unknown,” he writes. From his still life paintings, his subtle portraitures, the pleasant oddity of mental vignettes coming in fragments— they all represent a way of seeing—his own— and of hoping, in the world that only he knows fully and can translate in paintings and mixed-media art.
There are other works to navigate. If one is drawn to know the nostalgia which is a central psychological element to his works, each painting can be like a lit path to discover the full labyrinth of his oeuvre. In fact, it is almost as if the very life in each work, this very abundance of soul put into it, Oliveros is reaching to us to remind us. We go on our endless loop of remembering, despite distances and change of seasons. There’s a part of us that also desires to paint with such intimate detail, like bits of garments whose stark colors dwell inside our heads and still haunt us. Images bright as kimonos live, they go on living, through this love of remembering, the passion it fuels and relates to other people. In a time when so much seems to slip out of our grasp of remembrance despite our frenzy of mental documentation, we can learn from his works.
His works form a beautiful elegy for the viewing world, for those who feel they may never return, but are still dwelling in such fevered longing. Greyness that mourns and also celebrates, and only art can transcend and immortalize it.
Throughout the brushwork in an artist’s life, a way of understanding, Oliveros continues to create in hope to map the unnameable landmarks in memory, and as he says it, “I am looking forward to more unknown offerings and more transitions.” Life is grey. It may bloom, it should, and it doesn’t end there.
Words by Arian Rey Tejano
In Pursuit of Fragments that Bloom
To pass by a spectator’s moment of notice is to reveal
stories. Her own. How she is there, tender,
wearing a kimono, a perfect fit worn today, sown
years ago. How she takes pause,
such close-up of eyes
doleful in the nature of keeping things— a vase
of yellow flowers. Her hands
that know only two things— holding
and letting go.
How, perhaps, before this moment arrives,
she has taken poises of carrying herself.
Perhaps she knows too well
how to sophisticate from her spine, her neck now
in a supple twist,
the way a native woman discerns
a horrifying nuance from a distance,
slighting the far-off danger.
How she must move carefully.
And now, she’s there,
profile-perfect as she waits, in transience
between breathing and remembering
’til the painter freezes her in canvas,
her most perfect compliance,
by Arian Rey Tejano
Artworks from the Show
Don't You Remember, Kim Oliveros, 2018, Oil on canvas, 54×54 in
Moments Passed I, Kim Oliveros, 2018, Oil on canvas, 48 in diameter
Moments Passed II, Kim Oliveros, 2018, Oil on canvas, 48 in diameter
Moments Passed III, Kim Oliveros, 2018, Oil on canvas, diptych
Moments Passed IV, Kim Oliveros, 2018, Oil on canvas, 19×14 in