You Color the Sky
New paintings by Nina Tichava
This most recent body of work—produced entirely during the Covid-19 pandemic and largely in isolation—reaches to the past and references a span of artistic movements including the Bauhaus, 1960s Minimalism, Op Art and the Light & Space artists of the 1970s. Specifically I’ve been revisiting the works and writings of Joseph and Anni Albers, Donald Judd, Robert Irwin and James Turrell.
A central catalyst for my interest in the Minimalist and Light & Space movements are frequent visits to Marfa, Texas and the Chinati Foundation over the past few years. Though the sensibilities of Minimalism and Light & Space are nearly a polar-opposite to my own works which are steeped in maximalism, I respond strongly to the intentional qualities of the large-scale project dedicated to art and aesthetic which is Marfa, and to the purist motivations of a formative generation of artists with the imaginations and resources to create a monument to “Art with a capital A” which serves as an anchor in time and history.
The philosophical—and arguably spiritual—thread connecting many of these artists stems largely from Albers and continues almost three-quarters of a century to the present with Turrell and Irwin; this thread maintains a belief and assertion that the purpose and goal of art is experiential and driven by perception; that ultimately, the objective in creating and observing art is to dispel with preconceptions and to arrive at a place of just viewing. It’s easy, and so clean and clear as an answer and an aspiration.
I’m drawn to this simplicity, to the bare-boned idea of perceptual experience as the artist’s paramount ambition. Can I reach a state in my own viewing of an object to, as Robert Irwin suggests, forget the name of the thing I’m seeing? Is that the essence of art? And as a person making art, can I create the invitation for others to ‘just simply see’ it? Is that enough?
From my position in the world as a sensitive woman and artist, one of privilege, living through a pandemic, civil unrest, racial and economic inequality, climate change…it just feels like so much to confront. Perhaps this is the time for setting aside long-held assumptions about ourselves and others, and the spaces we occupy, and the stories we’ve created to get us to this moment. Maybe we can arrive at a place of understanding that the colors we see are affected by our histories and experiences, by the cells in our eyeballs and the shortcuts in our brains that have evolved over centuries and millennia. If questioned about the color of the sky, automatically and without looking most of us would answer “blue”; but our evolution is hopefully angled to a place where we’re open to seeing the color of the sky for what it is, by simply looking at it, with its inherent subtleties and variations. That might be enough, or a beginning.
It may not be immediately apparent how my paintings relate to the above-referenced movements and artists, but in these works I’m borrowing many of their ideas. I use hand-painted gradations and optical blending techniques focused on overlapping color and pattern. Working with the ephemeral qualities of reflected light and color interaction, I incorporate simple materials to create the impression of complex mechanics with an atmospheric, glowing effect. I repeat form and shape to develop a sense of non-object and abstraction, and use architectural and botanical elements to suggest but not define content or subject. My hope is that the coalescence of these elements generates an opportunity for capturing multiple visual effects within a moment, using pattern, color and light to manufacture an intimate observational experience. And further that this experience might create a set of questions and ideas within the viewer, much like my own.
The title of this project is from James Turrell, and below is one of the quotes which particularly inspired her when completing this body of paintings.
“The sky in no longer out there, but it is right on the edge of the space you are in. The sense of colour is generated inside you. If you then go outside you will see a different coloured sky. You colour the sky.” —James Turrell