Published in the Weekly Volcano, Dec. 18, 2014
"Canned (Sardines)" correctional fluid on canvas by Jean NagiaI don’t know how she does it. Susan Christian, owner of Salon Refu, keeps discovering artists of note. Or maybe they find her. The latest is Jean Nagia, an artist completely new to me. He painted the bright, geometric abstract mural on the side of Salon Refu, and he’s working on a mural for the artesian well park in Olympia. But what he’s showing in his exhibition is something completely different: works on paper and fabric in correctional fluid, aka, whiteout. Yes, that’s right, the stuff we use to use to correct typewriter mistakes back when we used typewriters.
With countless little white dots on either black or blue backgrounds, creates repetitive, sometimes organic and sometimes geometric patterns that in some cases can be seen as based on nature and in some are purely abstract. They are intricate, obviously work-intensive, and often hypnotic.
“Shipped” depicts many fish or eel swimming inside the framing device of an archway.
“Cheers” is a field of meandering ropes of dots, within which can be seen five masks.
“Mystic Truths” presents a monolithic rock-like formation of sparkling white dots on a blue field of watery, loosely brushed paint.
“Channels 3” is a wash of back-and-forth optical illusion.
“Ancient Vision” is a screen print (one of two in the show) of what appears to be the ocean at night.
“Canned (Sardines)” is a humorous title for a painting that looks like a Native American tapestry depicting five vertical icon-like fish stacked side-by-side — tightly packed like sardines in a can. Inside of these fish are many smaller fish linked together like sausages.
“Processed,” one of my favorites, is a two-panel painting with flowing forms in white on a dark blue-violet background. Little fish-like forms are herded together at the juncture of the two canvases with swooping forms that are like hair framing a face.
Frankly, these works are of a type I do not usually care for, but as created by Nagai they are mesmerizing. I particularly like the way he creates an illusion of space and dark-to-light modulations of tone by spacing the dots closer together or farther apart.
The reproduction of one of his works used on the invitation did not look inviting because these paintings don’t work at that small size. The pieces in the gallery are larger and work much better. I think they need to be larger still.
Also happening in the gallery is a large batik project that was just getting underway when I visited. You will be able to see this project in the works. Christian said the batik project was her suggestion of a way for Nagai to make these images much larger. She agrees with me that they need to be larger.Planned for Friday evening, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. is a multi-media happening. Details are sketchy, but it will involve the batik project and gift items, food and drink and live music.
Salon Refu, Correctional Fluid, Jean Nagai, Tuesday-Saturday, 2- 6 p.m. through Jan. 4, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia.