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Tuesday 19th February 2013A is for Art: Do Abstract Painters Need to Create their Own Visual Language?



Joan Marie Giampa’s sensual, organic paintings, draw you in initially, with their easy charm and surface appeal, and then, the longer they hold your gaze, begin to captivate you with a quiet intelligence and earthy soul, which — amongst other hidden charms — reveal themselves slowly over time. A form of painterly seduction, which makes her work all the more compelling, the longer you examine it.



Formally, each of her paintings is the result of a masterful painterly balancing act. One which harmoniously resolves the tension between the painting’s foregrounded, figurative subject matter — the seed pods, acorns, and leaves — drawn directly from her natural environment, and the more formal concerns of abstract painting, as revealed inJoan Marie Giampa painting, Green Leaf at Next Picasso Affordable Art Online her exquisite surfaces, which seem more like the result of natural processes, like wind and water erosion, or soil stratification, than of the human hand. Her painterly surfaces are painstakingly worked and reworked, and then later etched with the butt end of a brush, both obscuring and revealing successive strata of form, color, and underlying meaning. A process that culminates in the artist pulling a low relief natural form out of the ground, in which, it remains organically rooted, through a deeper substructure — her process apparently miming natural or environmental ones — actions occurring in geological time, or across the seasonal cycles of nature’s death and rebirth. Joan refers to this process as Image Archeology.




Joan’s investigations into language as a visual metaphor began as part of her doctoral research, but after a long a period of gestation, it has finally found its way into her work, adding an intriguing new dimension to her most recent paintings. In which, she has begun reconfiguring the simple biological forms — the seed pods, twigs, and leaves — that were the vocabulary of her earlier work, into a seemingly legible but ultimately ambiguous abstract language all her own. A practice based on the concept of asemic writing. 




According to Wikipedia: “Asemic writing is a wordless, open, semantic form of writing. The word ‘asemic’ means having no specific semantic content. With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret, similar to the way one would deduce meaning from an abstract work of art…  Or as Joan aptly put’s it, “visual metaphors do not need to be based on logic since A for Art, a Joan Marie Giampa Painting, from Next Picasso Affordable Artthey rely on perception.”  Looking at the tulip tree twigs that formed part of her earlier vocabulary, in a fresh light she realized, “they’re speaking to me and I am listening. I’ve decided to configure them into letters for this series and create an alphabet with them… Thinking with my pencil… so the new work entails more of the tulip tree twig, but with a language all it's own.”

(A is for Art, Joan Marie Giampa, 2013)




Wikipedia goes on to say, “Examples of asemic writing include pictograms or ideograms, the meanings of which are sometimes, but not always, suggested by their shapes. Influences on asemic writing are illegible, invented, or primal scripts (cave paintings, doodles, children's drawings)… artistic languages, sigils (magic), and graffiti…” After having worked with Australian Aboriginal artists for close to twenty years curating gallery and museum shows and having adventures outbush with tribal elders, and having livedEagle Dreaming an Aboriginal painting by Paddy Japaljarri Sims, at Next Picasso Affordable Art amongst them, I spent some serious time examining the ideas underlying the dazzling symbolic abstraction of their contemporary paintings. I’ve explored first hand how a preliterate cultural makes powerful use of visual metaphor in body painting and dance, in ground painting and cave painting. Through this investigation, I’ve come to understand a lot about paintings earliest uses, it’s role in symbolically reconfiguring the universe, so that as human beings we can make sense of our place in it. Which I believe is the ultimate significance of symbolic abstraction in much of early painting, from cave painting through early Christian religious art. To distill the ineffable into symbols that can be understood with emotional logic, in simple human terms.




I find that Joan’s ultimate achievement, like a number of abstract painters who have gone before her, is in creating a powerful symbolic language all her own. One which, although seemingly hermetic, personally referential, and operating on an intuitive, subconscious level, also has the power to communicate universally. As someone who’s expended a lot of thought on why the work of the great postwar abstract painters move’s me so deeply, I think one reason is that, unlike aboriginal artists, who Yellow Flow, a Joan Marie Giampa painting, at Next Picasso Affordable Artcome to their powerful, symbolic visual language, by cultural birthright, artists like Rothko, Pollack, Newman et al had to create a working painterly language out of whole cloth — a process as seemingly daunting to me as the notion of “god creating the universe in seven days.” Looking at her latest series evolve before my eyes, I find that Joan Marie Giampa’s work speaks evocatively in a painterly language all it’s own.



— David Betz


A gallery of Joan's work can be found here on Next Picasso 


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