On March 1, HOWL Gallery/Tattoo in the River District will welcome OPT abstract artist Veron Ennis to the gallery for a solo exhibition. On display will be work from her popular, highly-acclaimed OPT Exhibition! at the Mercato in Naples, as well as the last seven works from her seminal Paper Milk series of work.
Believing that the feelings she conveys in her abstract compositions are transferred to the people who view her work, Ennis strictly regulates the emotions she experiences leading up to and during the creative process. But once she occupies the proper positive mindset, she willingly yields large segments of the creative process to serendipity, happenstance and pure chance. It’s a technique called aleatoricism, a term that signifies the incorporation of chance into the process of creation, especially the creation of art or media. In fact, the root word alea is Latin for "the rolling of dice."
The process begins with Ennis choosing the amount of paint, palette and areas to mask at the start of her composition. "Carefully pre-mixing each color in large containers, I find the precise tone of each hue that will communicate a feeling of comfort and well-being before ever starting a series of work." But then fate intervenes as she pulls the paint across the un-taped surface to create "a delightful depth accented by drawn line."
The large sections of paint determine the landscape of the composition; the landscape, in turn, determines the detail, whether prominent or barely there. "Each time I apply a layer of paint, I stand back and evaluate the painting to see if it's done." If not, she applies and pulls another thin layer, yielding again to that higher, universal force in the creative process.
This back and forth, alternatively yielding and then seizing control, is highly meditative, forcing Ennis to be and stay in the moment. "It requires me to focus intently. Every decision, every application matters intensely" as she engages in a dialogue with the canvas, discovering the painting in its making.
"When the painting feels in complete balance, I know it's finished." This can occur in a single session or, more commonly, over a period of days, weeks or even months.
Ennis is part of a small group (29) of international artists who have formed a group called MAMA or the Movement of Aleatoric Modern Artists, a worldwide collaboration of chance-based artists who promote the principles and techniques of aleatoric methods in the execution of contemporary art in modern times. The movement pays tribute to the DADAists of the early 20th century, who employed a variation of the parlor game Exquisite Conversation to tap into a universal dynamic to create art and poetry.
In the parlor game, the first participant writes a phrase or sentence on a sheet of paper, folds it to conceal part of the writing, and then passes it to the next player for a further contribution. Nicolas Calas characterized the resulting fragment as the "unconscious expression of the personality of the group" through a process that Max Ernst called "mental contagion."
Surrealism founder André Breton reported that cadavre exquis started in fun, but quickly proved effective for enabling surrealists to exploit the mystique of accidental relationships. Breton claimed surrealists began using the technique around 1925, but Pierre Reverdy wrote that its use dates back even farther, to some time prior to 1918.
Since then, many other artists have bravely chosen to relinquish partial control of their creative processes to the hands of fate, the laws of physics, and the continuum of perpetual chaos which prevails over our universe by design. By developing a deeper understanding of the forces that govern our universe, these courageous innovators have discovered unique ways of collaborating with nature to produce some of the most beautiful and compelling images in the world of contemporary art.
Tap into this creative elan at HOWL Gallery on March 1 for the 6-10 p.m. reception HOWL is throwing for Veron Ennis. Or leave it to chance, and just drop by. Either way, this is one show you don't want to miss.
The exhibition will remain on view through March 28, 2013.