Variations on a theme

Becky Knoldā€™s 'Meditation Paintings' at Department of Ecology

By Alec Clayton on October 18, 2018

The Abstract Expressionist painter Adolph Gottlieb is most famous for his many variations on a single image: a nebulous circular form floating above a rough burst of energetic paint. The similarities between Gottlieb's "Burst" paintings and Olympia painter Becky Knold's paintings at the Washington State Department of Ecology are undeniable. In a show called Meditation Paintings, Knold displays 28 small paintings on paper in a lineup along one large wall in the main atrium. Like Gottlieb's famous paintings, most of the works in this series consist of two contrasting forms, an amorphous circular or elliptical shape above a more rectangular or architectonic shape, each painted in contrasting manners and in contrasting colors or values. A few are of single monolithic forms, some of which look like boulders or ruins of ancient buildings or heraldic shields. The contrasts might be between smooth and rough, or solid and atmospheric, or expressive and deliberative. They are private symbols that carry emotive weight, which may spark differing responses from each viewer. Knold describes them as her "inner vision on images of wholeness (the circle), hope (rising/floating shapes), and human kindness (the garment and basket forms)." They each display the artist's sensitivity to spatial relationships on a flat surface and delight in the many varieties of marks and brushstrokes in her arsenal.

The wall labels list only titles. No media is listed. The paintings appear to have been executed in combinations of media and methods from paint to ink and pencil and collage.

"One and the Same" is an ink drawing over a background that looks like milky, lime-green paint on the side of a building that has been weathered over years.

"In the Moment" pictures a single whirlwind of circular marks in blue-black that combines soft pastel-like shading with sharper and darker brushstrokes in what appears to be ink. There is a calligraphic look to this one.

"Precarious Position" beautifully presents exactly what the title implies. There is a form that looks like a black boulder precariously perched on the top edge of a rectangular monolith. It looks like it is going to fall at any second.

"Moon's Shadow" is a simple cut-out or collaged circle painted amorphously but with a sharp outer edge (the moon) in the center of a larger square shape. Negative becomes positive in this variation on the theme.

"A Fine Balance" breaks from the norm in that there are three forms interacting, a dark brown shape, a green one and a bunch of energetic swirling lines over blue.

"Above and Beyond" presents balance of a different type than "A Fine Balance." In this one there is a heavy horizontal stroke across the center balanced between two swirling worlds for which the horizontal bar serves as a fulcrum.

The fascination in this show comes from the seemingly endless variety within 28 paintings that are essentially the same. Now if she could only do these four by five feet each and display them edge-to-edge in a large arena. That would be a sight to behold.  

MEDITATION PAINTINGS by Becky Knold, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, through Oct. 31, Washington Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Dr. SE, Lacey