If you assume that painters ground their work in some relationship with the shapes if not the processes of the natural world, then two recent paintings by Lisa Adams, “Next Services” and “The Future of Paradise Past” not only call out the relationship; they also describe its symbiotic nature.
It’s intelligent work; it’s canny work, it’s honest work, though its initial impression belies its rigor. Its tone is spring day gossamer and breezy, joyous if not innocent. It’s like a high wire circus in the sky, with acrobatic Audubon birds and trapezed purple flowers. The lines of the vines trace delicate safety-line filigrees across sno-cone skies and cotton candy clouds. The works’ compositions are stable, one with a funnel cloud that anchors the piece on the vertical axis, the other with a skein of vines and capillaries that anchors it on the horizontal axis. The colors are perky, the colors of optimism, of nothing to hide.
But it’s more Ground Zero than Edenic. Both pieces contain interruptions, hints that it’s not just a high wire aviary act. Each painting has the kind of patches of paint that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the sensuous brushstrokes and Dureresque detail. The patches are similar in effect to the patches of solid color that John Baldessari splots on photographs, the better to say, “Whoa, there’s something else going on here. There’s more than meets the eye.” A clouded text-bubble emerges from the mouth of the upside down bird on the left in “The Future of Paradise Past;” it’s like something out of Rene Magritte, another impresario of the un-easy, problematic reading of painted narratives.
The same painting links the upside down bird to the left with a exquisitely-rendered bird on the right with something that can only be described as a two-nippled teat. From the right side of the canvas flows the color purple from the flowers through capillaries, as if blood - life - from an umbilical cord flowing to another living form. Say, from the beating heart of a pregnant mother to its as yet-unborn child. Hence the process of symbiosis, one organism, art, living off the nourishment of another, nature.
Likewise with “Painted Services.” Call the white funnel that centrifugally holds a bird a fallopian tube, a birth canal, whatever. But the piece describes the same process: a transmutation from one state, nature, to another, art.
As a two-part series, the process described in the two pieces is fluid, is in perpetual motion. It is cyclical and process-oriented. Adams’ subject matter is the dissection of genesis. The titles even corroborate the point. “The Future of Paradise Past?” The Platonic idea that artists work off of archetypal models. “Next Services?” The Henri Bergson-ean idea (“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”) that anything constructed off the archetype is never stable.
The works’ flux describes the moment of the process of inspiration; from model (the birds, the flowers) to painting. That the end result isn’t the same thing as its source depends on the sensibility that Adams brings to the work: an interest in laying bare sources of inchoate matter, the grist of art. An interest in work that captures a pregnant, lovely pause of a moment that is not Here or There but somewhere In-Between.