Cathy Ward’s “Phantasmata” at Good Luck Gallery
By Genie Davis
Through October 15th
What’s black and white and transcendent? Cathy Ward’s Phantasmata at The Good Luck Gallery in Chinatown.
The images seem to pull viewers into another world, down a tunnel, and into a different dimension. There’s a mystical, passionate, supernatural strangeness and energy to Ward’s work that evokes the occult. But it is a gentle occult, not a frightening one.
The U.K.-based artist’s show revolves around the vast titular piece, which spans an impressive 84 x 284 inches. Acrylic on canvas, the black and white work is intensely detailed, almost obsessively so, but in a grand way. The lines and forms drawn here are epic in size and scale, appearing as braided rope, silk cords, feathers, fur, chains, flowers, embroidered fabric – the stuff and scope of dreams. There is an aspect of the psychedelic, of raw magic in the piece. The work is so large and absorbing that viewers could easily fall down an absorbing rabbit hole and never take their eyes from this one singular, mural-size work.
But that would be a mistake. Other beautifully crafted pieces fill the gallery space. Ward’s bronze sculptures, ink drawings, and gesso on ink series are all equally compelling.
Her bronze sculpture “Offering to the Luna Sea,” features a halo-like circle of gold, a magical moon rising over coral that resembles fragile flowers. The mysterious, seemingly antique – like something unearthed in a magical, haunted cave – ink on mother of pearl mounted drawings are translucent and alive. “Diluvian” gives us the swirl of the sea and a sea-shell-like shape, as if the ocean were contained but barely constrained inside her work. “The Billows Wild” looks like cloud and wind suspended over a sea creature or the sea itself.
“Phantasmata – Sprite I,” Ward’s work in gesso on ink on clay is an image that reminds the viewer of layers of the psyche floating across the layers of her medium. Ghostly and strange, these are works that are impossible to look away from, works that appear to have come from a different era or a different plane. Her scratchboard drawing technique is edgy and surreal, graceful and ghostly.
One of the most interesting aspects of all of Ward’s work exhibited here is that it appears both of the moment and antique. Her sculptures have the faintest echo of the Art Deco era in both medium and image; the mother-of-pearl based drawings are elegiac, something that could be envisioned in the corner of a rich Victorian sitting room during a séance. The gesso, ink, and clay works transcend time, otherworldly and futuristic; and would seem not out of place in a castle in the Scottish Highlands when the faeries of folklore were said to roam. It is this kind of time skewing, timeless story telling that infuses her works, which seem to deal in images of time and tides, space, and parallel existences.
This is the stuff of myths and legends, witchery and spirits. One feels as if one has entered a different dimension just in viewing Ward’s exhibition. More prosaically, her exhibition here is so utterly unique it transcends conventional categorizing. Enter the visionary void through October 15th.