Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Simple and blithely inviting though they may seem at first, Amy Feldman’s new abstract paintings, on display in her solo show “Heart Arts” at Anna Bohman Gallery in Stockholm, are full of tension and nuanced emotion. They are quietly beguiling. In Jolly Squall, one of six large-scale works, she frames roiling silk-screened shapes in neat ribbons of acrylic paint, configured like an hourglass, that segregate the visual agitation from a background of shaded gray horizontal lines on which edges of similar agitation encroach. There’s a lot going on there.
The separations among the distinct elements of the painting – especially the hard edge imposed by the interior line – suggest a compulsion to compartmentalize, the firm envelopment of gestural movement the further need to life’s contain perturbations, the movement’s sneaky appearance at the margins the difficulty of those endeavors. Feldman has also applied by hand three white impasto fingermarks amid the gray turbulence. While not as aesthetically aggressive as, say, Turner’s red buoy in Helvoetsluys, they impart a personal imprimatur intimating that the painting does come from the heart. Reinforcing loosely autobiographical intent, perhaps, is the symbolically female shape of the interior border, which also appears in Edible View and Wild Silence.
Feldman employs the same broad compositional scheme – flat acrylic background, doily-like border of paint, kinetic silk-screened shape and line at the center and edges – in each large painting. She has maintained her longstanding affection for gray-on-white, and the curly interior line is a mainstay of her repertoire. She still does not rework paint or ink once it is applied, which enhances the work’s lively and faintly casualist feel. But the geometry and conceptual framework of her paintings have become more complex and sophisticated, her approach more flexible and adventurous. If her aims once tracked as narrowly formalist, now they appear expansive albeit tightly disciplined.
Two compact, starkly geometric pieces hung side-by-side, Grate Love and Grate Affair, respectively feature a small latticework overlaying cool, stable color, and a larger one bracing light, washy color. One notion that gracefully emerges from this tandem and all the large canvases is that passion is borne happily only if it is controlled. Feldman’s present array brings out plenty more to ponder – the abstract/referential balance, the insidious convergence of art on life and vice-versa, the interplay of linearity and painterliness, the confusion of digital repetition with handmade imagery, and, by way of jaunty and less intricate little paintings such as Digital Ghost, Eye Dust, and Enter Empty, the vexing lightness of being.
Feldman’s paintings continue to have a fey, lofty visual effect. But she has added the ballast of real emotional life. Currently on view at Stockholm’s Magasin III Museum for Contemporary Art is a trenchant sculpture by Carin Ellberg, Strandnära varelse, in which a spare abstract metal figure is poignantly weighed down by a rock suspended from its center. That’s its heart – the irrepressible source of sorrow as well as joy that grounds the overall structure. In Feldman’s new work, meticulously developed and admirably integrated, she finds her rock.
“Amy Feldman: Heart Arts,” Anna Bohman Gallery, Karlavägen 15B, 114 31 Stockholm, Sweden. Through October 29, 2023.
About the author: Jonathan Stevenson is a New York-based policy analyst, writer, and editor, contributing to the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and Politico, among other publications. He is a regular contributor to Two Coats of Paint.