I would argue that the hardest thing to do, for a seasoned, well-trained, and technically savvy artist, is to paint like a child. After an impressive education at London’s top art academies, how on earth do you find the faith to follow an innocent impulse? For artist Liliane Tomasko, it was motherhood that forced the new phase in her art practice. “Watching my young son draw with such direct expression of emotion had a profound impact on me. Having a child opened me up, and made me more carefree, experimental and ultimately more willing to push boundaries.” All the paintings in her exhibition at New York’s Marc Straus gallery were made in 2016 with raw, joyous, confident and deeply felt flair.
Tomasko’s work has always been anchored in the physical realities of domestic life. She started out making sculptures, photographs and ultimately these beautiful paintings, based on towels, clothes, and bedding from her home. She literally paints the fabric of our lives. “I paint what I observe in the domestic sphere. That is where human beings are most themselves, where they live. That is why I use the example of the bed. Everyone sleeps in one and it’s where you have your dreams. It’s where you travel. It holds your impressions.” Tomasko’s earlier series ‘Stacks’ and ‘Dark Corners’ were more literal in the representation of domesticity, even though the reference photos were close up and blurred. The earlier works are somber and still, while the new work in her series ‘Beds’ is colorful, kinetic and free. The vaporous shapes in these new pieces seem to move as you look at them. Each canvas of vibrant colliding colors offers infinite avenues for your eyes to wander.
“The bed is the perfect metaphor of how our existence feeds our psychological life” – Liliane Tomasko
The paintings in this exhibition began with photographs Tomasko shot of the unmade ‘family’ bed, which she shares with her husband (and frequently) their son. Tomasko transfers the bed photos onto the canvas and draws in pencil the creases and crevices of the sheets. The drawings become the skeleton or armature’s for her ‘pure painting’. The original object of the bed is not evident. The drawings are merely her launchpad for the unexplored. As she is painting, Tomasko intuits a collective energy of the family’s dreams. She allows the hidden nocturnal dramas within the sheets’ folds to unfold. Her painting technique will bypass reason to grip the core. “Just as kids have no boundaries and no concept of the future. Watching my son has taught me to live, love and paint in the present moment.”
We talked about dreams: dreams as journeys dreams as revelations, dreams as a way of exploring a connection to what we sense but do not fully know. Personally, I admit, I too have often wondered about the mysterious nature of our dreams. “The bed is the perfect metaphor of how our existence feeds our psychological life. Dreams are a path or a connection to something else. In our dreams, there is a schism between a familiar feeling and a feeling of not knowing what is happening”. I find it no coincidence that Tomasko, who was born and raised in Switzerland, does art that references the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Jung argued that there is an inner knowing that goes beyond the personal. Curiously, when Tomasko was young she had scary torturous and horrifying dreams, which went away once she went to art school!
Tomasko hasn’t had a bad dream in 20 years! The paintings in the Marc Straus show reflect her happy art practice within the domestic harmony of her life with husband, Irish/American painter, Sean Scully, and son Oisin (Gaelic for little deer). I asked Tomasko if she always makes her bed. “You make your bed every day like you make your reality every day. You perceive it and make it. I will, however, leave the bed unmade until late in the day, just to catch a certain light in my photos. Eventually, I will make the bed even if it is right before we go to bed. I want to get it ready for another dreaming session.”
Words: Lizanne Merrill Top Photo: Self Portrait By Liliane Tomasko © Artlyst 2017 All Rights Reserved Photo Middle Installation shot courtesy Marc Straus
Liliane Tomasko January 5 – February 10, 2017, MARC STRAUS 299 Grand Street New York, NY 10002