The Canadian Art Database

Ihor Holubizky

Nicole Collins: Sample (2002)

The Embassy of Canada, Tokyo
April 17-June 14, 2002

[ 505 words ]

In her artist's statement of 2002, Nicole Collins writes that the subject of her work is painting, and that the titles are entry points to a range of possible interpretations and readings. They can evoke a description — Lush Path, for example — or suggest to us how to read the painting, Watershed Notation, for example.

The notion of reading a painting is often spoken of. Indeed, from an early age we are given reading instruction in our mother tongue. And from childhood we are also provided with instruction of how to look at paintings. What that really means is that we are instructed in the codes of interpretation. Some artists provide an easy route, an illusionary space and representations of the world we live in. By reading such paintings we enter into our own world, perhaps even unexplored corners of that world, but always with prior knowledge. This is not the case with Collins's paintings; they are open-ended books. She also states that 'each painting has its own innate practical logic which develops through a series of yes/no decisions. Yes and no is a binary proposition. There can be no maybe, or there will be no painting. Decisions must be made.

This decision process is fundamental to every painter whose work may be called abstract, or nonobjective. We look and use the powerful tool of human imagination. There is a difference and distinction in Collins's work; her objective (for the nonobjective) is not to reach a prescribed end, but to engage a fluidity as she works. The story evolves in the act of painting. Her medium, encaustic wax, must be melted and in a fluid state before it can be applied. That may be true for oil paint, but wax hardens quickly and the decisions — the yes-and-no must also be quick, done with physical and conceptual agility. Wax suspends, it captures things, but in Collins's work ideas are not fossilized: we are witness to the fresh trails of life. And if read that way, we can look at the paintings as if staring into the face of creation; that of the painting, and the idea.

Collins's paintings take on the presence of flowing streams and tracings, pools and eddies, old skin and new skin. The forms are organized in the way nature appears to us under a microscope. The paintings can be connected to the history of modern painting, but a painter in her own time and moment cannot overthink history or she becomes paralyzed, unable to make that first yes/no decision.

If I have avoided saying what these paintings are about, they can be understood in the way the American jazz musician and composer, Charles Mingus, described the transcendence, beyond the memorable melody, and the compelling tempo. 'Pure genius,' he wrote, 'is the moment when the lead instrumentalist and the rest of the band runs around the room while the rhythm section grimaces and dances around their instruments.' You can recognize genius when you see it, not when you read about it.

June 2002

Text: © Ihor Holubizky. All rights reserved.

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