Perception Through Surreal Landscapes: Joani Tremblay at The Pit Los Angeles
The Pit, Los Angeles
Through April 30, 2022
Written by Ashley Ouderkirk
When thinking about how we interact with “the landscape,” we may recall a picturesque exotic vacation or recent memories of summits on hikes. Increasingly, however, we consume these sweeping vistas and sublime skies not from our first-hand experiences and recollections, but from digital images, and perhaps, for younger generations specifically, through our endless scrolling on Instagram. These awe inspiring posts of red poppy fields, tropical cenotes, and desert monuments, create the ultimate instagrammable photo — all perfectly framed, filtered and often artistically staged in a seamless manner. They may even inspire us to travel there to capture our own perfect image. The question then becomes — how has this idealized “digital digestion” of the landscape affected our perception of actual landscapes? This of course is an excellent question for artists to tackle, and one of the reasons we may be drawn to the surreal landscapes of Joani Tremblay in her exhibition, Three Miles an Hour, now on view at The Pit LA.
In the main rectangular gallery space, seven, large, colorful paintings are set against crisp, white walls (with two additional smaller works not on view). In this show, Canadian-born artist Joani Tremblay’s paintings guide us through architectural and nature-inspired vignettes to behold ethereal sunsets, sunrises and cloud-filled cerulean skies. If you had any doubts that Tremblay was heavily influenced by views of the sky and natural light through architectural nooks, windows, crevasses, and oculi, then look no further than her intriguing Instagram page, riddled with dream-like images that appear to have inspired some of the very compositions in this show. Indeed the artist’s method is creating complex digital collages from found images and then translates the composition into paint on linen.
Tremblay welcomes viewers to step into each composition’s immediate foreground like in Untitled (dawn mountains) or visually climb over wavy yellow mountains from around a bend in, Untitled (nautical twilight yellow mounts). At times, it appears we may be looking straight-up, through an opening lined with lemon tree branches with bright sunlight beaming down in Untitled (midnight sun lemons). The slight changes in orientation from painting to painting bolsters the dream-like feel, while the realistic skies connect us back to reality, or at least a distant memory of it. Each scene feels so familiar and yet, not fully recognizable. All of this seems to link back to the artist’s intention of questioning “our perception of place.”
One of the standout paintings, Untitled (golden hour field), is also one of the more abstract pieces in the show. As viewers we feel diminished in size, as if we are perched between flower petals and gazing over the pistil to greet the “golden hour” light. The artist differentiates between these compositional layers, and forms by varying the brushstrokes. The architectural “petal” features flanking the left and right are painted flat, appearing almost airbrushed with no visible brushstrokes. While in the chartreuse central field, she incorporates both fluid, mossy-colored lines, and meticulously painted tight swirls in the pale yellow-green forms to add subtle texture. The natural sky, caught in the moment before sunset or sunrise, is created with a more painterly approach and brilliantly captures the light display on wispy clouds in orange and mauve hues. Are these vignettes and layers in Tremblay’s work painted so we question what is pulled from reality?
While it seems that Tremblay was influenced by the artists Agnes Pelton and Judy Chicago, there also seem to be strong visual connections to the modernist Georgia O’Keeffe. In particular, O’Keeffe’s paintings of the sky when peering through fragments of white pelvis bones from the desert, see Pelvis IV (1944).
Overall, Tremblay’s brushwork and complexity of composition give her at least two of the hallmarks of a master painter. She’s certainly one to keep your eye on.
Ashley Ouderkirk is an independent curator and emerging artist advisor who splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles. She is currently the Curator-in-Residence at Kunstraum in NYC.