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In Constellated Dreams

photographs by J R Compton

Nancy Rebal - She Saw That He Was Beautiful

Nancy Rebal - She Saw That He Was Beautiful - oil on canvas - 96 x 60 inches

Twencen painting's left us all sorts of ways of making a picture, but no one way everyone thinks best. That's kind of like how medieval Latin broke into a hundred feuding shards. The last time a painter seemed to speak with authority to the whole whirling Zeitgeist was Francis Bacon; and even now a painter's degree of approach to Bacon's unique fusion of emotional intensity & sheer decorativeness furnishes a measure, while resemblance to other canonical figures only works as echo. (Or argument.)

I went back to Nancy Rebal's Craighead-Green show without having written more than scattered notes, because i felt like there was a conversation being held on the other side of a wall, and i couldn't make out any of the words yet.

Her works are intricate, arresting, and gorgeously embellished, in what might conventionally be called "the key of ambiguity." Her method is not far removed from Gorky or early to mid-de Kooning (drawing first & then half effaced, by painterly afterthought, on top of it); with overtones of both landscape & figuration. Yet this somehow completely missed the point. Which is?

Can an artist be both visionary (Matta) and inarticulate (Still)? Or is this really about an almostness — pushed to the point of imminent paroxysm?

Nancy Rebal - No Strings

Nancy Rebal - No Strings - oil on canvas - 60 x 48 inches

At times when i turned away, i immediately thought of one of Dali's double-image pictures, though turning back brought me neither a This nor a That ... More than the sum of its gestures, each painting looked back with a virtual physiognomy, created through textural contrast & a dialectic of warm and cool, rather than intelligible contours or spatial illusion.

With an inventiveness second to none, Rebal journeys straight into the unknown and there is
no alternative but surrendering to the artifice of this weird interioricity.

Why, for instance, should "She Saw That He Was Beautiful" be so replete with science fiction vibes? (One monster confronts another.) (Or two events, covariant, on a Castilian plain, in cream, beige, black, brown & red.)

[A caveat: Naples Yellow, though seductive, is like cloves: the less you use, the better it is.]

Nancy Rebal - Ritual Stage

Nancy Rebal - Ritual Stage - oil on canvas - 30 x 30 inches

Occult tradition divides the World of Textures from the World of Meanings. Art dedicated to the one, gives Beauty; to the other, Drama.

Taking this slightly specious duality into post-Baconian contexts, it is a rare & wondrous thing when surrealism achieves the breakthrough of a mystery that touches the heart. Max Ernst could do it. That's why, though not the most dextrous Surrealist, he was the greatest.


photographer's apologies for gallery lighting


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