like the ebb of a broken wave to those who have heard the sea • Nona Garcia

Dec 12, 2020, to Jan 9, 2021 • Tall Gallery

But there are two hard things:
that is, to bring the moonlight into a chamber.
Quince, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Nona Garcia’s paintings are usually vast in scale, taking up most of the space on a gallery wall. “The size of a painting is relative to my body,” she explains. The painter fits herself into her paintings to experience it. And yet the initial embodiment of her current work is comparably handy.

This view is based on her previous work Recurrent, a lightbox of the starry seascape at night made of digitally-manipulated x-rays of dead corals. In this romantic picture, one cannot see the moon. And yet everything is represented by it: the tides rely on the moon’s gravitational force, its transparent figures refracting light. The moon isn’t there, but the picture reflects it.

To the artist, the sea is imaginary: it is an unreachable place from her studio in the Cordilleras. It is also the first time she doesn’t have a hold on her picture, literally, for a painter who is used to painting pictures. She’s used to things being in her control, having a grasp of these things by hand. Only the idea of it is like painting, extending the process to her collaborators to set the picture in motion by virtue of the virtual. She’s never even heard their voices, only communicating through text messages.

Picturing is like waiting, much like the lockdown situation that encompasses this work. The word “ebb” connects to her experience of this lockdown, a ghost in the machine as Gilbert Ryle puts it, with the artist only operating through the para-mechanical to picture her view. “Minds are things, but different sorts of things from bodies.”

By picturing it move, bleeding on the edges of a wall, Garcia is also bringing it to life.

—Raya Martin