Four Paintings • Michelle Pérez

Sep 5 to Sep 30, 2019 • Upstairs Gallery

Four Things

In Michelle Perez’s new set of paintings, she simplified and schematized four things by not just utilizing gestural marks and geometric shapes, but also visually manifesting an artist’s reliance on the intuitive process. Equally important to our appreciation of intuition in creative work, we can also anchor our journey to understanding the exhibited works to the meaning of non-figurative types of art. “Abstract art is often seen as carrying a moral dimension, in that it can be seen to stand for virtues such as order, purity, simplicity, and spirituality.” Through these four virtues, we can associate Perez’s four paintings to ideas that resonate with us.

Thing of order

There is a glaring contrast in the artwork Stone Piles. The red and orange hues of the background are reminiscent of the sun rising or setting. In the painting, the colors are made to complement a pile of stones we usually associate with or see in beaches or the shore with cool tones where flat rocks are usually found. They were rendered to appear as silhouettes at the center of the image plane. When Perez made the work, she felt that it was a complete piece after collaging and applying paint of different sizes and shapes. But by yielding to the urge of innovation in her art practice, she incorporated the black pieces to form the stone piles. There is an evident order of thought in the process that is transmitted to the viewing of the painting. Even in abstraction, there is common linearity as we attempt to understand it.

Thing of purity

Perez was attracted to a leaf drawing made by American artist Ellsworth Kelly she saw in a friend’s photo. The artwork must have been one of Kelly’s plant drawings, which he did over the years of his artistic practice that is widely known for abstraction. Perez mimicked the shapes and transformed them into surfaces she can use for her piece After Kelly. The painting with greens and yellows illustrates for us a kind of pure connection. According to one article on Kelly, “Plants, then, are a gateway to abstraction – much like the windows, staircases and other neutral bits of which Mr. Kelly derived some of his early paintings.” The two artists are linked by the style of color field painting, more so through this perceptible bind of aesthetic influence.

Thing of simplicity

The painting Sticks, Stones, Things conjures for us the joy we feel through simple things. There is so much visual satisfaction when an artist can make an abstract work comprehensible and is done with virtuosity. The combination of the geometrical lines, graphic representation, and playful use of color situate our imagination in a degree of limitless freedom; much like what Perez feels about her chosen medium. There is also simplicity in the process of giving in to one’s creative urge. Despite the skills she gained from training on enamel painting and portraiture, she chooses to explore the infinity of abstraction. Even though she is frustrated by the tediousness of the labor needed and trial and error mode to build an idea into a finished form, she is dedicated to evolving and reinventing her works through further exploration without boundaries.

Thing of spirituality

When asked about her artistic process, Perez said that making art harnesses her intuition, because deciding whether a painting is complete or not relies solely on her instinct. She was inspired by Aboriginal art she encountered while she was living in Australia. Even when she settled back here, the influence of the spiritual link of indigenous art manifests in her works. Since then, she has incessantly reanimated these dot paintings into works with depth, texture, and that employs unlikely techniques such as collaging. After the Rain directly demonstrates the transcendent response to the challenge of knowing when to stop or to continue working on something. There is an extent of spirituality when intuition and instinct come into play.

In women studies, it has been observed that depending on instinct is an important adaptive approach for self-protection, self-assertion, and self-definition. To immerse ourselves in the viewing experience of the displayed four paintings, we empower the artist in her self-discovery in this artistic path.

—Con Cabrera