Corydon Cowansage: Seed
Reception: Saturday, April 30th, 5–7 pm (Sponsored by New Am Winery)
Sean Horton (Presents) is pleased to announce Seed — a solo exhibition of new paintings by Corydon Cowansage that showcases the artist’s vibrant and dynamic meditations on organic and biomorphic forms. The exhibition coincides with the artist’s inclusion in a two-person booth at the New Art Dealers Alliance Art Fair.
Corydon Cowansage magnifies shapes, patterning, and movements found in nature and the body and then further enlivens them through tightly cropped perspectives, bold color palettes, and disorienting optical effects. In her latest series of paintings, the artist alludes to things like touching lips, leaves, tongues, splitting cells, drips, wrinkles, waves, teeth, flowers, and skin. Speaking to the influence of science, biology, and microscopic view, the artist states: “I use scale to push that strangeness further — so forms that are suggestive of something small or even microscopic are huge.”
Cowansage’s abstractions suggests a macro / micro view of the natural world, which also gives the paintings a physical presence that feels rooted in reality, materiality, and objecthood. In Drops (Orange, Yellow, Turquoise, Blue), , lingual forms and elongated droplets squeeze and bend into a turquoise background. The uncanny liveliness of Cowansage’s paintings is accomplished through her meticulous attention to light, value, and shadow. A recurring combination of undulating and diagonal lines encodes the paintings with a sense of movement that contracts and expands, emphasizing a pulsing quality that brings each composition to life.
Corydon Cowansage (b. 1985, Philadelphia, PA) lives and works in New York. The artist received a MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Studio Art from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. She has participated in residencies at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York and the Yale Norfolk School of Art, New Haven, CT. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Chart, New York, NY; Koki Arts, Tokyo, JP; and Deli Projects, Basel, CH. Her work is currently featured in The Entelechians (curated by Rob & Eric Thomas-Suwall) at Ruschman, Chicago, IL.
Q & A with Corydon Cowansage
There are a variety of dynamic patterns throughout your work — some geometric and others biomorphic. What is your process for developing these patterns?
I make tons of quick, intuitive ink drawings on paper as a starting point to develop the forms and compositions for paintings. Once I settle on a drawing that I like, I make paintings on paper to refine the idea and play with color. If that idea works then I jump into the painting.
The abstract forms in this body of work are suggestive of shapes, patterning, and movement found in nature and the body. The forms allude to things like touching lips, leaves, tongues, splitting cells, drips, wrinkles, waves, teeth, flowers, skin, etc. I think a lot about how the forms will interact in each painting, and what those interactions might suggest to the viewer.
Until a couple of years ago I was focused on architectural hard edge geometric abstraction, but during the covid lockdown in 2020 I was stuck working in my tiny studio apartment and I only had space to draw and paint on paper at my kitchen table. I used it as an opportunity to experiment and began working with these more organic, biomorphic forms. At the end of 2020 I moved an hour and a half north of NYC near a lake, which I think has also impacted the forms in these paintings.
There seems to be a specific approach to how the colors confront one another in your paintings. What guides this aspect of your work?
I constantly experiment with color and try to find strange or unexpected color interactions that hum. It’s hard to predict how colors will affect each other until you see them next to each other, so I go through a lot of trial and error to find the right colors in my paintings. I make a lot of studies and paintings on paper as color experiments.
Your biomorphic forms remind me of the modern naturalistic expressions of Tarsila do Amaral. At the same time, your tightly cropped compositions echo Georgia O'Keeffe. What artists do you draw inspiration from?
I love both of those artists, and Georgia O’Keeffe in particular is a big influence. I’m definitely interested in those early 20th century modernists who explored associations between nature and abstraction. Lately I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth Murray a lot — the energy of her paintings and the way she developed a lexicon of abstract imagery based on everyday objects and her personal experiences. Some other artists I love are Judy Chicago, Arthur Dove, Mary Heilmann, Fernand Leger, Bridget Riley, Tomma Abts, Lois Dodd, Carmen Herrera, and Ellsworth Kelly, among others.
Your naturalistic use of light and shadow gives your non-representational imagery a tactile physicality. Is the sense of touch integral to your practice?
Yes definitely. Gradually over the years I’ve shifted from making representational paintings from observation, to this completely invented abstract imagery. But I still want the invented forms in my paintings to have a physical presence that feels rooted in reality. There is also a lot of tactile mark making in these paintings.
When did you become interested in incorporating trompe l'oeil effects into your work?
I’ve always been really captivated by light and shadow and creating trompe l'oeil spatial illusions.
The magnification of patterns in your paintings feels as though one is looking through a microscope. Is science or biology relevant to your study of patterns?
Some of the paintings are suggestive of a micro/macro view of something in the natural world. When I look at some of my paintings I think about cells or bacteria, but that isn’t necessarily something I think about at the outset. I use scale to push that strangeness further—so forms that are suggestive of something small or even microscopic are huge. My grandfather was an optical physicist and made holograms, my older sister is a neuroscientist, and my twin sister is a computer scientist, so maybe it’s in the back of my mind somewhere when I’m making the paintings.