Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Artist Insight: Paula Owen

Paula Owens’ new paintings are featured in Symbiosis, currently on view at 1708 Gallery. Formerly from Richmond, Paula now lives in San Antonio, Texas and is the president and CEO of the Southwest School of Art and Craft. In a recent phone conversation, we talked about her paintings, chaos theory and making things fit, even when they don’t want to.

Symbiosis comprises work by Owen and Sue Papa, a ceramic sculptor. Owen and Papa picked the word ‘symbiosis’ to title their show, because it describes the meeting of disparate elements in their work, the forced and the fused. Paint is Owens’ primary medium, but she began her art career in ceramics and uses many techniques such as sgraffito, inlay and layering of materials that she learned while working with clay.

Owen is very interested in chaos theory, which describes the complex and elegant patterns that emerge from non-linear dynamic system. She is mesmerized by chaos theory’s “strange attractors” that govern the movements of everything from flocks of birds and schools of fish to ripples in water and the formation of sand dunes. The small carved and painted marks in her work reference an integration of what Owen describes as “the pixilated world” we live in and the interior world of the mind. She is compelled to examine the sequence of events that unfold as she paints, ponder the relation of her body and mind and the identities that define different aspects of her life.

The question Owen most often hears in regard to her work is “Why do you work with a two-panel format?” After 20 years of working with multiple panels, she says that the panels allow her to examine the incoherent parts of people’s lives, the parts they try to get to fit together but can’t. They also refer to the inner and outer realms of her life, her multiple identities and reflect how humans try to put the disparate parts together. She tries to make the elements in the paintings not fit together in such a way that they are visually compelling and pleasurable, but ambiguous, because she believes that they best represent intangible reality.

Symbiosis is on view until September 29th, 2006.

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