Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jill Galarneau

When I visited Jill's Williamsburg studio, these works were still in progress. Jill creates her own private world and as a visitor I felt like I was privy to her innermost thoughts. There is a definite conviction and cohesion to Jill's highly elaborated vision.
I loved Jill's painting of a sponge!!! Jill's enigmatic watercolors allude to everyday objects without being too literal. Although Jill is keenly aware of the tradition she works in, she retains a sense of spontaneity and freedom in her collages. Jill shares a lineage with the French painting tradition of Intimism, which is best known for artists such as Vuillard, Bonnard, and Matisse. Intimism was invested in revealing the significance of the ordinary, quotidian aspects of the artist's domestic life. 
This collage alludes to a pie and a clown. Jill talked about how her current interest in clowns and the double meaning they convey. The clown on the surface seems boisterous and fun-loving, but they are often depicted as tragic figures throughout the world. Paul Klee's etching, Comedian (1931), comes to mind, where just beneath a mask of feigned happiness, lies a dissatisfied malcontent. Sean Lander's depictions of clowns who are either lost at sea or trapped in a state of paralyzing inertia become metaphors for our own selves. Fellini's Clowns, chronicles the history of the Italian circus clown, and is one of the most hauntingly beautiful documentaries I've ever seen. Fellini also saw clowns as archetypes who mirror our own behaviors , and he differentiated between the white clown and the Auguste. The white clown is the sad, elegant clown who always does the what he is supposed to do and the Auguste is the comical figure who always seems to mess up. 

Here's an excerpt from Fellini on Fellini, explaining the distinction between the two clowns:

    The white clown stands for elegance, grace, harmony, intelligence, lucidity, which are posited in a moral way as ideal, unique, indisputable divinities. Then comes the negative aspect, because in this way the white clown becomes Mother and Father, Schoolmaster,Artist, the Beautiful, in other words what should be done. Then the Auguste, who would feel drawn to all these perfect attributes if only they were not so priggishly displayed, turns on them.
...The Auguste is the child who dirties his pants, rebels against this perfection, gets drunk, rolls about on the floor and puts up and endless resistance.
     This is the struggle between the proud cult of reason (which comes to be a bullying form of aestheticism) and the freedom of instinct. The white clown and the Auguste are teacher and child, mother and small son, even the angel with the flaming sword and the sinner. In other words these are the two psychological aspects of man: one which aims upwards, the other which aims downwards; two divided, separated instincts.
Here Jill was thinking about the harlequin, which is another type of clown. During the Renaissance the harlequins would perform their stunts and acrobatics outdoors, traveling with  Italian Commedia dell'arte. Jill pointed out she pointed out that in America we have no counterpart to the harlequin. The history of clowns in Europe is far richer than in America. At one point in Europe, clowns were given the same respect as artists. In 1976, when Fellini shot Clowns, the clown was already a nearly extinct artform, which is one of the most heart wrenching aspects of the documentary.
Jill's collages have a sense of lightness and impermanence, which are evocative of a more Eastern approach to art making. The Occidental tendency is rooted in fear and the desire to make everything last forever, whereas Asia honors the ephemeral and realizes that nothing lasts. There's this incredible Hokusai print which depicts the day after a celebration where banners and other remnants of a festival are strewn about by the wind. It's an incredibly powerful and moving image, emblematic of the great beauty and sadness of experience.

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