LAYERS OF TIME
by Fred Camper
The curvy lines in Angela Schlaud's recent watercolors, with their heterogeneous mix of forms, points to the great 1970s paintings of Willem de Kooning. Schlaud's curves are combined with streaks of watercolor, open white areas, other variously shaped colored forms, and thin pencil marks, and each shape suggests its own kind of landscape, geography, world. The curves can be followed rhythmically; the streaks are delicate and transparent; the pencil marks, in their precision, evoke writing; empty spaces suggest ideas of absence. The red triangle in Mimic is unlike anything else in the composition; even though variable in color and density, it asserts a kind of Euclidean geometry in a way that nothing else does. Curvy lines of dots rise from several points, suggesting both painterly color and a mark making that is a distant kin to language. The horizontal blue streaks over most of the composition have some of the flow of a river, despite the whiter area at the center, a window onto depths that has no ready parallel in the seen world, reminding me instead of Caspar David Friedrich's evocation of infinite depth in the sunset or moonlit vanishing points of some of his paintings.
Crucial to these Schlaud works is their layering, which is deliciously ambiguous; marks and colors seem to appear to be in front of others, except that the same foreground-background grouping of marks can suddenly seem to flip in their orientation, so that what seemed in front is now in back, and vice versa. Peering through layers, almost always with the grounding horizontal flow suggested by the color streaks, evokes nothing less than time itself. But this is no unidirectional time; instead one has the feeling of a floating evocation of things that have occurred in the past, things that were before and after other things but with one unable to tell exactly when or in what order. This can be seen, for example, in Floret, in which the cluster of deep reddish dots near the lower center hints at flowers, or buds, or some other nature-based forms that have congealed in time — something about their arrangement suggests that it was arrived at by a natural process, not achieved all at once. In addition, some dots are near curvy brownish lines, suggesting perhaps buds on branches, except that others are not touching the lines at all. It is this mix of suggestiveness and abstraction that gives these works much of their richness: the seen world is paired with the world of the mind, hints of representation with imaginative invention.
In an art world increasingly taken over by too-easy and too-derivative conceptualism, in which art exhibits can often be described in one-liners in the manner of a "pitch" for a Hollywood movie, gentle, contemplative art such as Schlaud's is often given short shrift. But the variety of its effects mirrors the complexity of a mind investigating its own processes. Thinking about the varieties and ambiguities with which one experiences space and time can only make one more aware of the subtleties of existence itself.