In Liliane Tomasko’s current exhibition at Kerlin Gallery, the veil between the conscious and unconscious world is swept away. Titled The Red Thread, the exhibition presents eight new paintings that map the human psyche and its relationship to the material world. Tomasko’s paintings take domestic objects as their starting point – particularly objects which form intimate relationships with our bodies, such as bedsheets – before using the language of abstraction to open up a more metaphysical realm of expression.
Tomasko’s paintings take domestic objects as their starting point
Born in Zurich and based between New York and Germany, Tomasko has been developing her distinct approach to representation for over two decades. At times, she uses sculpture and photography in order to get closer to her subject matter, but it is a large-scale acrylic and oil painting for which she is best known. The works in this exhibition deploy a combination of conventional acrylic paint with a more gossamer acrylic spray. Layering these different techniques and textures anchors her pictures in the physical world while allowing them to shapeshift into something more intangible: material objects seem hazy, and the immaterial crystal clear. Feeling overrides rational thought; perception becomes elastic; Dreamtime and reality intermingle.
Four of the eight painting titles are prefixed by a dream of, including the titular ‘dream of’ red thread, in which coiling red paint lashes forth, tongue-like, from hotbeds of peach and gauzy white stripes. Much like the stuff of dreams, the work’s fragmentary title and hallucinatory division of space is both compelling and cryptic: do we follow the red thread? Grasp it? Untangle or unravel it? Red, the most powerful and evocative of all colours, heralds both danger and desire; a red thread could present a warning but also deep connection; some kind of cosmic umbilical cord, connecting us to the universe and every living thing within it.
The Red Thread is the artist’s third solo exhibition at Kerlin – an airy, white-walled space suffused by natural light. It’s apposite (if coincidental) that the exhibition’s run – from 9 March to 13 April – straddles the Spring Equinox, the point in the year in which the hours of darkness and light briefly matchup, a fleeting moment of equilibrium before the lighter half of the year begins. Such moments of mutability and transformation – the limber dance between darkness and light, or the fleeting moments between sleep and wakefulness – are ever-present in Tomasko’s work.
In the exhibition’s most shadowy moment, a dream of RISING MATTER, snaking coloured threads seem to emerge from the void, catching the light for only a second before retreating again into darkness. Not quite a glinting chiaroscuro, it evokes instead the softer glow of headlamps gliding by the far side of a curtain; a next-morning remembrance of having woken in the middle of the night, but failing to remember why. In the painting beside it, dark goes lightly, the last throes of nighttime are pushed aside by encroaching sunlight. It is the most pared-back work in the exhibition, and perhaps the most lucid: liquid splashes of paint dripping against a white ground. Day breaking like the cracking of eggshells.
The hero piece is an untitled painting on the end wall of the gallery – the first we glimpse upon entering the space. A tumble of blush, jade, and deep plum, its knotted forms seem to ricochet around the canvas. There’s that red thread again, unspooling and cascading from the bottom edge of the frame as if reaching out into the tangible world. The implied extension of Tomasko’s ribbon-like forms past the confines of her paintings suggest endlessness, openness and circularity that seems in keeping with her practice. In this gesture of continuation, Tomasko appears to invite us into the realm her paintings occupy, opening a door into the intuitive, oneiric and prelinguistic universe she makes so palpably real.
Words: Rosa Abbott © Artlyst 2019 Photos courtesy the artist and the Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
Liliane Tomasko, The Red Thread Kerlin Gallery, Dublin 9 March – 13 April