Alicia Popoff, "Spark 1," 2005, acrylic on paper, 22 x 30 inches.
Ken Segal Gallery, Winnipeg
Nov 28 — Dec 22, 2005
By Scott Barham
It's nice to see a show that is a show rather than a loose collection of studio orphans. Saskatoon artist Alicia Popoff's series of 28 abstract acrylics on paper are born of a concentrated block of time and effort spanning Spring to Fall 2005. The exhibition as a whole benefits from that continuity, allowing the shared palette and gesture of individual works to achieve a noticeable resonance.
Works on paper are finicky and demand a considered presentation. Popoff and gallery owner Ken Segal came up with the elegant solution of hanging the paintings within wide borders, permitting the paper edges to be visible as they should be when a piece is worked right to the limit. The frames present the artwork in an open, generous manner, never encroaching on the life of the painting.
Balancing muted chalky tones with punchy hot notes, these paintings are driven and accented with Popoff's cursive brushwork. It could be said that she is best where she is boldest. Usng a complex interlaced mix that welcomes yet keeps the viewer slightly off balance, Popoff operates in the kind of imaginative visual arena found in Miró or Klee paintings where shape and space assume personality, importance, mood, and emotion. At the same time, there is a tension in these pieces, an anxiousness of line that distinguishes the artist's painting process.
The iconic shapes delineated by Popoff's brushwork — painterly and subtle, suggesting communities — engage each other through her strong use of colour. The forms crowd and shoulder each other within the bounds of the 30 x 22-inch paintings. Buried beneath the surface are hints of landscape, providing a structure of depth, atmosphere, and occasional moments of lush foliage for her protagonists to interact with. On the wall, these works would never be quite static; they would present different facets of themselves over time — a welcome quality in a work of art.
The quality overall is not even, but some paintings are very good, and the number of works confirms that Popoff has survived the gauntlet of experimentation. She is careful to slide between definition and ambiguity in these paintings, never going too far in nailing down her images or intentions, and leaving things for the viewer to discover or interpret. Telling us some things but not all, she seems to be enjoying allowing others to finish her sentences.