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Alicia Popoff, "Walkabout," 2006. Acrylic on Paper, 25 1/2" X 26".
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Alicia Popoff, "Choral Evolution," 2006. Acrylic on Paper, 20 3/4" X 25".
ALICIA POPOFF, Time Within
The Gallery / Art Placement, Saskatoon
Nov 18 – Dec 7, 2006
By Cathryn Miller
Alicia Popoff’s recent paintings are luminous, with a quality of light that reaches the viewer before the detail in the paintings. The works function well as a group, images and forms reflecting and repeating from painting to painting. There is a cohesiveness about the show that makes it work well as a whole, and it would be interesting to know in what order the works were painted – Popoff has said that her works often influence each other.
The title of the exhibition, Time Within, reflects the artist’s focus and approach to her work. Popoff works intuitively, and the works in this exhibition are a record, not of actual times and places, but of an inner world. No preparatory drawings or plans are made: each painting grows under the artist’s hand in an exploratory process. This has both positive and negative results. In the most successful works such as Blue Migration, Ghost Particles, Atom Promenade, and W Squared there is a manifest exuberance and energy. The larger canvases such as Sienna Rhapsody and Molecular Junction seem overworked and laboured by comparison.
The term ‘collage’ as a descriptor for some of the pieces is misleading. The added materials (paper, canvas) are so deeply buried in layers of paint as to be unrecognizable. The subtle changes created by the collaged materials are lost in the built-up surface, and looking at the paintings is a bit like doing archaeology – Popoff works and re-works, giving the viewer glimpses of what came before. The sense of time and process is manifest and tangible, and the layers of paint create a thick impasto surface which Popoff often cuts back to reveal parts of the painting’s history.
Popoff layers both paint and time in her works. The most successful pieces capture a childlike sense of exploration – her works on paper have an energy and life that comes from her spontaneous response to the materials themselves. The unframed paintings on canvas look naked next to the framed works on paper, and they often seem to bear too heavy a burden of paint.
Popoff paints for herself. This kind of work often leaves the viewer (or even the concept of “viewer”) out of the picture, both figuratively and literally. There may be elements in this intimate work that strike a responsive emotional chord in someone looking at the painting, but that does not seem important to the artist. Although Popoff says in her artist’s statement that she is interested in expressing “the interconnectedness of everything”, she is working with such a personal visual vocabulary that the transmission of that concept to the viewer often fails.