"My process is a record of my engagement with the surface - the sheet as territory. The result is the direct outcome of my energy and touch in each drawing. It is a physical conversation between the How and the What."
- Natalie Alper
By: Emily Schecter, Seraphin Gallery Intern Edited by: Alyssa Laverda, Associate Director, Seraphin Gallery Natalie Alper's "Energy Fields" emanate a primal power that is related to both nature and the human psyche. These drawings evoke chaos, each containing its own unique spectrum of en
Seraphin Gallery has recently acquired a piece by renowned artist Natalie Alper. Though she has exhibited with the gallery for many years this work, dated 1988, is before Alper's relationship with Seraphin Gallery began. This piece marks a moment in Alper's mid-career when she focused on the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA
Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, NC
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Lehigh University Art Museum, Bethlehem, PA
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, San Francisco, CA
Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Wheaton College, Norton, MA
DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, MA
Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH
Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, San Diego, CA
My work, though driven by abstract invention, serves as a metaphor for primordial energy connecting to both nature and the psyche. My own physical energy is visible and palpable in the work and its making, affirming the human and the unpredictable in an increasingly impersonal world.
These drawings, though dependent on physical action, personal energy and "marking" are not "calligraphic" in the sense that each mark is not a signifier --- but is a component of an entire matrix and stands as such.
My drawings have always been distinct bodies of work often closely allied to my large-scale paintings but conceptually addressing drawing as an independent practice. Drawing and painting have a feed-back loop in my work --- sometimes one taking the lead --- sometimes the other --- but arriving eventually at symbiosis.
My process is a record of my engagement with the surface --- the sheet as territory. The result is the direct outcome of my energy and touch in each drawing. It is a physical conversation between the How and the What.
I work on only one drawing at a time, from start to finish, so each has its own specificity. There is no mediator, no object reference to get in the way. Brushes, markers, inks, (transparent and opaque), the paper, its size, shape and the things that make the marks, are the stuff that is intrinsic to my process.
These drawings contain a spectrum of forces, some building to an explosive mass, some suggesting a sense of electromagnetic fields. Others have a range of energy and entropy within the same drawing. The visual qualities of these drawings are supported by their conceptual underpinnings, producing a very varied body of works setting them apart from the category of gestural mark-making on a field. They are best described as “energy fields.” Some focus on one kind of power, others a combination of forces, and as energy fields they cover a broad spectrum of what energy can signify.
These energy field drawings fuse the complexity of space and layering that my paintings have --- not with their chromatic color --- but with value, tone, opacity, transparency, reflectivity --- all contributing to the complexity and ambiguity of spatial location.
The markings and structures of each drawing can evoke analogues or metaphors for a distribution of matter and energies in the universe. Each drawing varies with the interaction of its specific markings and variety of materials: transparent, opaque, reflective, used in each layer to overlap, accumulate, cohere or disperse, and to form a matrix that varies in density from drawing to drawing. They may evoke force fields, atomic particles, currents, waves --- and disturbances in the field.
Some have multiple loci of varying density that create the tensions that activate the entire field. They operate within the ambiguity of repelling and attracting, dispersing accumulations of energies --- or of entropy. Nonlinearity, as addressed in chaos theory, and the sense of flux in the layering and massing of densities is in opposition to sequentially deconstructing the order of my drawing process.
Some have relatively open fields with a few rhythmic markings activating the drawing surface, creating tensions that result in making the open field “active.” Others are dense compressions and expansions of the mark matrix and the energies it conveys. By contrast, some are so dense that evidence of the paper surface is almost obscured. The tangled layering of these marks is complex and deep. They just manage to stay within the boundaries of the drawing field, and imply an expansion of energy that continues beyond the boundaryʼs border.
Those with a multiple format structure imply a sense of narrative or perhaps a film frame or sequence of snap shots of a process in a state of flux that we can only glimpse.
The force and path of marks and lines are made with a variety of marking instruments. The number and variety of materials used varies from drawing to drawing. I work with one tonality at a time limiting the palette to warm and cool grays, blacks, silvers, copper and whites. Some are transparent, some opaque --- so that it is impossible to determine where the brush started on the sheet, where it ended, or where each “layer” is located spatially. It is not a gestural inventory of marks but rather a complexly drawn matrix of energy and form that cannot be sequentially unraveled.
The tonality and coloration of the marks is altered by the choice of an underlying interference ground (pigments derived from mica platelets coated with extremely thin layers of titanium dioxide that refract and reflect light to produce various colorations) and in these drawings serve to further complicate the space. This quality, unfortunately, is not adequately conveyed by reproduction, since this ground allows for drawings that are luminous and evanescent that change subtly depending on light conditions and the position of the viewer. These fluctuations reinforce the conceptual content that is a referent to the constant change and flux that operate in other systems in the world.
Leonardo da Vinciʼs Deluge Drawings are one connection to this body of work that reference the elemental forces of nature, both natural and human. Process, change, growth and unpredictability underlie the meaning and resonance in these images. They reflect my interest in chaos theory --- in physics, politics, and global dynamics --- that explain many of the operating forces in the world today that affect meaning in art, in literature, and in all human activity. And, of course, there is Cezanne, ever present, to remind us to understand and to know that there is no "empty air."
The images are formed through the process of a fusion of the substances I use to give evidence. They capture my ideas and feelings about energies of many kinds and the metaphorical associations they evoke. If my work suggests "nature," it is the nature of processes and change and growth and --- unpredictability. I want my images to hold their own place, create their own space and time, and renew their presence each time they are engaged.
As in my paintings, the drawings allude to a view into a process of change that we can see, but one that is driven by a force we cannot identify.
Changing configurations repeat and evolve from my first touch, as cells may develop to form an organism, where the coding within tells it what it will become.