Teresa Kalnoskas: Finding the Universe in the Center of a Fig



What is the nature of a narrative? It has a beginning, it has a development that involves content, often conflict, ideally growth and progression, and it has an end. The best narratives are the ones that have an end that do not end, that through our experience of the narrative, the viewer, or the individual whose existence is that narrative, has been so transformed as that experience forever changes and the viewer, or person living that narrative, is forever changed.


This conception of the living narrative may have more to do with the art Teresa Kalnoskas than is immediately apparent. What may appear static is in fact a living narrative. Kalnoskas paints abstractions of luscious and ripe fruit. Although she might like the viewer to perceive her work as still-life, just like the portrait of the human sitter, one recognizes the temporality inherent in the art form that is definitive of the subject.


Still life does not usually involve temporality in contemporary still-life. Famous still-life artist Christopher Terry, to all appearances distills all traces of temporality from his very precisely articulated still-life’s. Terry is at the top of his field for doing what he does so we might learn this lesson most definitely from him. Kalnoskas may work in the still life genre yet there is nothing still about this life.


In comparing her work to Terry’s, Kalnoskas has chosen a subject very full of life with a beginning, a middle of content and being. And an end, one of decay, digestion? This is not the most profound of life’s abundance of learning. Yet still we might learn all the same of great profundity from these still-lifes as if they had indeed lived life to the utmost capacity.


“Viva” oil, alkyd, wax on linen, 62″ x 62,” has so much to it that is rich in visual quality referential to a subject that can only be the same. It is the color that is used with such density in hue that varies in totality to create a product that can only be described as lush. It looks sweet. It feels juicy to the eye. It appears something to be bitten into with juices dripping from the corner of the mouth.


Kalnoskas methodology to her subject only heightens this experience of juicy sweet lusciousness. She has a singular use of the brush that builds or diminishes her intensity of color or from highlight on top and great shadow underneath. The brushstroke can be described as Japanese in stroke. It appears like a samurai sword has taken great swipes of color and through these many strokes built the subject, which, ultimately, has an abstract quality that in itself has a Japanese quality of universality or simplicity in Zen. This is carried in the fruit beyond which are “built” in the same manner, also with the line of the sword surrounding it like electrons of an atom thus the universality semiology only increases. To the right is a space that is dense and abstract in black, greens and orange with the only recognition being the samurai-like approach to abstraction.


Let’s see if other narrative still-lifes are handled similarly and thus solidifying the proposition of universality in the Zen-like simplicity or if they are handled with disparate abstract methodologies.


Having an outside source choose “Joie de Vivre with Figs” oil, alkyd, wax on linen, 47″ x 61,” its methodology shall be investigated with all fairness. A composition of Kalnoskas’ could not be more different from “Viva” than “Joie de Vivre Figs.” Even the shape of the canvas is different.


The subject is several figs, one is cut open in sections. The unopened figs are opaquely dark with a heavy texture that makes then very robust with a texture that seems fibrous and flaxen, and not having seen the external raw fig, there can be no judgment here of verisimilitude. But the inside.


The insides look like the kind to put to mouth and suck the juicy flesh out and enjoy the rich sweetness to caress the back of the throat and slide down in an experience of epicurean ecstasies. The mouth is full of a sour sweetness that feels so satisfying another bite is in order and this fruit begs to be nursed upon until every last morsel of this delightsome meat has been washed down the throat with the utmost pleasure. And the abstraction?


Like a samurai had slashed his way through with a sword dripping paint articulating a density of an exterior which once seen in light is revealed to be of purplish hue and rendered in a manner of Zen-like simplicity, this is one more articulated fruit that is narrative in nature and universal in abstract application.


What can possibly be universal about the mere verisimilitude and the manner of application, the artist’s methodology and the fundamental quality of narrative distinguishing this still life from just any other still life?


Rendered in a manner that unites them and the abstraction thus capturing them in their very most fecundity, their most ripe, we are at the climax of this narrative, something that is rendered in a Zen-like abstraction that heightens this fecundity universalizing it and calling of it a universal harmony, these become much, much more than simple still life’s.


These are distinctively rendered still life’s of fruit rendered in a singular manner captured in a moment of life narrative when they are most full, most ripe, most succulent, the climax of their existence, with a universality that unites all of them in a Zen-like existentialism.


We might, in our humanity, see in these microcosms of existence, instead the macrocosm and that temporality that is a ruling factor to everything, but to everything, there is process and to all process, there is beauty, be it beginning the climax or the end. The colors will be a different intensity, lighter or darker, or more or less intense, the juiciness may be more or less full and abundant bursting from the flesh like a full sponge, or quite dry.


But always the abstraction will be the same, the universal like Zen-harmony will unite at all phases of life, not only in this most fecund phase, and we can be assured of our own universal unity just as these still lifes are a testimony to a universal harmonious unification.    


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