A solo exhibition of new work, poems and more, by Joan Watts will open at Charlotte Jackson Fine Art on June 1 and extend through June 30. An Opening Reception with the artist will be held on Friday, June 1 from 5-7 p.m. The gallery is located in the Railyard Arts District at 554 South Guadalupe Street.
Black lifts, opens and diffuses into the barest glimpse of smoke-amethyst which, even as it forms, is paling, disappearing into white light. This is the essence of Joan Watts’ work: dark and light fusing and diffusing in space. Moving through the gallery, the viewer begins to see each piece as an aperture, as painting by painting she is allowed a glimpse into the paradox of shadow and illumination.
The paintings collected for poems and more are Watts’ latest offerings in what she calls her “ongoing exploration of painting as process and meditation.” There are three distinct series which come together in this exhibition, the larger Untitled square format pieces, the Diamonds series, and the poems, which are small squares so-named for their condensed intensity. Each of the series formats creates a very different affect on the viewer. The solidity and stability of the Untitled squares contrasts with the dynamism of the upsweeping Diamonds, and both have a more impersonal grandness which contrasts with the intimacy of the small poems.
Those familiar with Watts’ work will recognize her dramatic and yet subtle technique of slow modulation of color saturation (or perhaps it would be more apt to say color de-saturation). Though each piece is essentially made up of only two colors, the gradual gradations of tone between black and white (often with the color coming clear only in the intermediate range) make for a seemingly infinite array of shades. This array is achieved by a painstaking process of applying and wiping away color. In her current series, rather than applying the paint evenly upward in relationship to the format of the canvas, Watts paints her dark-to-light forms into a curve. It is an effective combination—the square format provides a perfect base for the partial circles of emergent light. As she says, “The partial circle also reflects light and appears to continue into space beyond the confines of the canvas.” The effect is of sunspots on film, the pale crescent moon in the night sky, of the glare of intense light off half-closed eyelids, or the shatter-brilliance of sun across water.
Watts has scaled back and pared down her visual vocabulary to only a few bare essentials: a single timeline of color, the half-circle within variations on the square, and yet the scope achieved by this process of elimination is inversely vast. Without clutter, the eye is able to focus more clearly, and the viewer may settle into the moment, easing into the visceral experience of each painting. The contrasts of dark and light, square and circle, create tension, volume, and, perhaps surprisingly, movement. It does not take long for the viewer to begin to feel as if these paintings are alive with a kind of tidal energy. Heaving, moving in multiple dimensions. It is easy to fall into them and feel their breathing.
With Poems and more the viewer is given a complex experience of light and space. The exhibition as a whole is an exploration of how the opposition and interpenetration of light and dark are what create form, depth, volume. Burning and merging, sinking into one another, these paintings of white and black exemplify that we see one only in contrast to the other.