Articles and Reviews

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Artscope Magazine, Jan./Feb. 2014

"Confusion Meets Intuition"

“I’m the net”, exclaimed Barbara Eskin, almost as a revelation, as she energetically explained the minimal elements of a recent painting—a raw and elegant part of a new series of enigmatic compositions.

At that moment, a painting depicting a simple and unrefined black-netted structure, with a slightly aggressive presence (…) remained untitled and was still drying. Perhaps without intention, Eskin gave the work greater significance, suggesting through her gestural body language and tone of voice that it could be a self-portrait. “I take in and I release,” she said.

Born in Germany, Eskin has been painting professionally for over two decades. She began her career as a language teacher (…). The story of how she arrived at communicating visually is remarkably interesting. It is the tale of a still unsettled, softly spoken argument between control and freedom – holding in and letting go. During her teaching career, Eskin continued to paint, studying objective and figurative realism as any good artist should, but loud, non-objective modes continued to call out to her.

It was intuitive, emotive conditions and the essence of time that she needed to express in a physical form. To do this, she allowed “rules” to set the foundation onto which explosions of feeling – her visual vocabulary – would be held together. Working in a thematic series format, each painting demonstrates the next chapter, and each series informs the next. Her early compositions show explorations of classic abstract color theory and rich brushwork with open areas of overlapping pigment.

Later works, those in the Chronos Series, 2012, are a fusion of geometry and expressive tonal movement that fade in and away within layered space. Still others, such as the Kairos Series, 2012, have a meditative minimalism or Asian aesthetic with controlled, modern, hard, angular forms next to simple line gesture writing motifs, all within open flat areas. This conveys a rather intellectual and conceptual or heavy sensibility, despite the lightness and minimal visual characteristics of the paintings.

Her new work features fishing nets, those precisely constructed utilitarian objects that are the quintessential symbols of order and confinement; they are beautiful and dangerous, tragic objects because we depend on them yet hate them. They are metaphors for the sordid nature of our lives. “The human condition includes illness and decline,” she writes. “We know it and yet, from a personal perspective, it feels like a ‘scandal’ when things hit home.”

Eskin utilizes these objects as subject and as painting tools, extensions of her hand, dipping nets into India ink and applying them onto the canvas, a form of “printing” or “capturing”, to create a vocabulary in which the final shapes are graceful and a bit ugly. The net forms are layered with oil paint in bold strong colors, like black and deep blues, next to muted soft pretty tones like peach and white; touches of aggressive red add punctuation marks and attract attention as symbolic material. Paint is manipulated with fat brushes and scrapers and moved around with a squeegee tool. The material is left embedded, while its other areas allowed to be exposed, as directed by the composition.

Though the final arrangements are rather mysterious in meaning (“They suggest”, Eskin pointed out), their physical creation is plainly exposed. “The paintings are about how they are made,” she said. For Eskin, this process is a very personal “capture and release” which is embodied in the form of the fishing nets and given a voice on the canvas.

Eskin’s last major solo exhibition took place in 1998, in Bremen, Germany, at the Galerie Reinfeld. When she arrived in the United States, she admits to having gone into a type of hibernation for many years while developing her paintings and testing concepts privately. Friends encouraged her to explore the exhibition world, and soon she began showing in Boston. In 2011, a large solo exhibition “About Time”, took place at the Goethe-Institut, Boston.

Today, Eskin is one of Galatea Fine Arts’ fresh artists and the excitement about her mysterious raw paintings is quickly spreading. “The Scandal and the Beauty of It” is a deeply personal exhibition and professionally important for Eskin. It announces her “coming out” into the gallery world.

J. Fatima Martins
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