November 17 - January 15, 2008 at Marion Meyer Contemporary Art, Orange County

by Daniella Walsh

"Tumulous Meditation #3,"
encaustic on board
16 x 16"

"Visual Meditation," en-
caustic on board
24 x 24"

"Wave Meditation," diptych,
encaustic on board
12 x 24"
Encaustic as an art medium dates back to ancient Greece and yet, over the centuries it has never lost its luster. Numerous contemporary artists have embraced it for its versatility and ability to give even the most basic composition complexity and depth. One such experimenter is Sylvia Torres, whose current works are exhibited under the collective title, “Earthly Meditations.”  As this title implies, Torres gives forms found in nature new life by transposing them into paintings that bear only scant resemblance to traditional landscapes.

A subtle, for the most part dark but still luminous palette coupled with rich layers of medium plus collage, suggest a painting within the painting. This produces compositions that might be called landscapes of the mind. For example, the aptly titled “Genesis,” suggests a universe before the onset of light. The diptych “Meditative Reflection,” on the other hand, is a multi-layered study of pale colors and meditative forms. Faint text adds to what one might perceive as an otherworldly atmosphere.

“Resplendent Earth” somewhat resembles “Genesis,” except that Torres has added several layered graphic elements that give the painting, even though it is abstract, a sense of perspective and depth.

”Red Meditation,” as the name implies, is painted in a predominantly red palette with a few earth tones interspersed to soften what would otherwise strike one as an inferno of color. As in much of this particular series, “Red Meditation” also contains Torres’ signature meditative objects, such as an allusion to earth or other planets.

Torres describes the process of adding, carving and subtracting layers of encaustic as meditative. If you take the time to really study these paintings you are likely to connect to the meditations of this promising artist.

Delicate child-like scribbles, faint allusions to text suggestive of thoughts and faint memories, circular forms derived from a fascination with Ferris wheels and random splotches of paint strewn about like rose petals. These are images Lisa Lala draws into thick layers of paint that she applies to glass. By also letting the glass shine through in selected spots, she gives the otherwise impastoed looking paintings an unexpected lightness.

While a cursory glance might lead one to dismiss the paintings as too superficial, closer observation reveals surprisingly intricate compositions achieved by deft layering of paint, as in “Cherries 5000.” Unusual arrangements of color blocks and brushwork that appear merely casual and loose are controlled enough to achieve a sense of purpose.

At times the paintings appear earthy and innocent, making one think of a children’s drawings or kids’ graffiti on a wooden fence. In “Double Luck,” for example, a finely etched Ferris wheel paired with heavily applied bright red and pink against a grayish white background reads like a confection reminiscent of Wayne Thiebaud--had he gone into abstraction.

On the down side, Lala’s forays into forms of minimalist abstraction paired with faint marks appear somewhat half-hearted or unfinished. Works in the vein of “Momentary Satisfaction” succeed because they are refreshingly simple and honest and, given their luscious texture, almost good enough to eat.

“We Choose to Fill,"
oil on tempered glass
16 x 20”

“Double Luck,"
oil and graphite on canvas
48 x 60”

oil on tempered glass
16 x 20"