No place for negative space

The Secret Messages, detail. Gulgun Aliriza, oil on board

The Secret Messages, detail. Gulgun Aliriza, oil on board

At Blue Mountain, Gulgun Alizira, a young painter from Turkey, has her first show with a delightful range of work, from quite large to extremely small. As in 4″ x 4″. Clusters of these tiny oils greet you as you walk into the gallery, and they held my attention the longest. At first they look like details from or studies for larger paintings, but they push Aliriza’s all-over technique into full abstract expressionism. In the larger paintings, there’s a tug-of-war between representation and paint itself, which reminds me most of Cecily Brown‘s more recent, less porn-y images where it’s even more of a “Where’s Waldo” hunt for the nude figure in the nest of brushstrokes. Here, the thicket of paint gets just as dense. In a studio scene, stretchers and props mix it up with furniture, and the room looks like what’s left after a tropical storm has blown out all the windows. It’s an interesting creative mess, both as a place to work and as an image of actual space. It’s all about making the paint a little more important than the rendering of a scene, and this comes through most dramatically in the tiny squares that seem to abandon representation altogether and where her areas of color become more coherent and powerful. I liked all of it, but the smallest work had the most charm. The paint gets really thick too in these tiny ones: folds and ripples of it rise up like peanut butter on a cracker. I told the sitter at the desk, “I’d love to see her duplicate one of those tiny ones, but on the same scale as her big paintings.”

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