These figures are not persons but small images, each of which has
been formed alternately from a memory, a landscape, a wandering,
a mood, a beloved something that is the beginning of a wounding,
a longing, a happiness, a draft, a fear, in short, from an echo.
Roland Barthes, »The romantic song«, in: What sings to me
who hears within my body the song, Merve, Berlin, 1979, p. 15
Grace Weaver went inside herself. And stayed for almost a full year. In introspect seclusion, she read and looked and reconsidered her vocabulary: What of all images, motifs and colors? What’s viable, what carries on? She wanted to paint up close, be present. And she did. Her new paintings might well be her most personal ones, so far.
To begin with, she muted her colors, made them sombre. Yet once the eyes become acquainted with their sparsity, ochres and browns, subtle yellows, reds and rosy hues of flesh, shimmering whites, greys and blacks are as nuanced as ever, possibly even richer. This warm tonality brings forth an unrestricted openness—as expressive as sensual—which evolved with Weaver’s own growing sensibility.
As the flashy contrasts faded, unimposing forms and shapes gained prominence. Although, she also let go of her distinctive contours, enclosing bodies and things alike. With such liberties, the colors shape their appearances by themselves, just as some black bulked together in Franz Kline-like lumps of color for a pair of shoes.
To further embolden this trait, Weaver thickened the oil paint with wax and marble dust, giving a resistant solidity to it. Colors tough as concrete. To deal with that, she swapped artisan utensils for construction tools and painted with masonry brushes, cut down for even greater stiffness. The sheer brutality of matter demanded for a considerable amount of force and thus, in deep furrows, she scraped the paint into form.
The colors move in and out of resemblance—abstract in swaying strokes and patterns, austere in faces, towering bodies and mundane goings-on. Time and again, the opaque thickness gives way to gentle transparencies. Particularly in passages of hair, dresses or swirls of smoke, the successive layers blend with each other. There’s neither a ›behind‹ nor a ›front‹. Painterly, all that happens does so on the same plane. In the very same materiality, everything comes to the fore.
Corresponding with this are Weaver’s most visible erasures, wipe-outs and omissions. Her willful acts of effacing figures and motifs or of excavating the phantoms of compositional spheres buried deeply underneath the surface reunite the paintings with their previously concealed conception and, what is more, her drawing practice. For in her charcoals, she is relentless. She contorts and dislocates her personae over and over, until eventually they make a stand in a world of their own. Including each and every mishap or individual misstep.
Directly transcribing Weaver’s surroundings into this pictorial realm is what her new paintings do. It’s her sense and sensibility by which everything is held together. The visual horizon expands from her. And after months of lockdowns and turmoil, it resonates with anxiety and repetitive daily routines as much as with a dreary winterly city—bags come in, trash goes out, cigarettes are smoked, clouds pass by. Elementarily, these sensations have permeated the painted matter. Sentiment and color have become one.
There is a simple stillness to Weaver’s figures with their scattered glances. They appear as if they were biding their time, waiting for something. For a bus or a call, for summer or the pandemic to end, who’s to say? They endure in this awkward state of limbo. Maybe there’s melancholy. Humor even. Like a »Droop«, something burdensome barely upheld, making a funny shape of one’s mouth when saying it.
Weaver’s paintings are entangled in this kind of painterly onomatopoeia and all of a sudden two droopy »o«s match up with two equally wacky clouds of smoke (»Puff Puff«). Or the absurdity of a title as »Faucet«—assuming we saw a woman with heavy tears dripping through her wide spread fingers. And »Bud«? Is it, none the »weiser«, a comforting drink, a real buddy or, at last, a bud blossoming with newfound hope?
Affectionately such small moments, incidents and situations unfold. The figures we see might struggle, be in doubt or despair. They long for wholeness and for a mere blink of an eye it seems possible for them to even attain it. This confidence is what makes Grace Weaver’s new paintings so relevant, so touching.
– Christian Malycha
(There’s still a lot to be said about Weaver paying homage to Philip Guston’s marvelous late portraits, Blinky Palermo’s »Grey Disk«, Georg Baselitz’ »Drinkers« and to Amy Sillman’s daring appropriation of Abstract Expressionism but that’s for another time.)