Digital printmaker wants work to impart a sense of well-being
At Mendelson Gallery, Carolyn Frischling's latest prints on display in her solo exhibition, “Idiosyncrasy,” offer a new take on contemporary printmaking.
Created digitally, they are as close as it comes to the virtual being made real, here in vibrant colors and sinewy shapes printed with archival-grade inks on paper and aluminum. In short, they are the next step in printmaking.
“I'm proud that printmaking comes out of a long line of democratic, inclusive ideals, that today is at the forefront of technology and creativity,” Frischling says. “The applications for digital printmaking are astounding.”
Yet, as if holding a screen door closed in a windstorm, Frischling is the first to admit that she often looks to the past while moving forward, into the digital realm.
Take, for example, her most recent series, “Graffuturism,” which combines two of Frischling's favorite artistic movements — graffiti and futurism.
“It's also related to the concept known as dynamism that describes an object's force and motion,” Frischling says. “I'm trying to describe that in visual terms, and following where artists/printmakers like Donald Judd, Frank Stella, Brice, Marden and Helen Frankenthaler left off.”
While those artists explored flatness, Frischling's work explores the next step — creating dimension, movement and the illusion of space using the universal languages of color and form.
Digital printmaking enables her to use the same thought processes as in traditional printmaking without the toxicity inherent in using traditional printmaking methods and materials on a daily basis, or polluting the environment with solvents. “It's a greener form of printmaking,” she says.
Putting all technical aspects aside for a moment, however, Frischling says the work is not without deeper contemplation.
“My thoughts explore language, perception, logic and ambiguity, which can be humorous,” she says.
And indeed, one of the pieces in the exhibit, “Lady Mondegreen,” is so named after a term Frischling came up with from mishearing lyrics to a song. With its subtle, modulated shapes and somewhat muted colors by comparison, it appears here like some sort of portrait.
For others to “see things” in her abstract works, well, Frischling has no problem with that. In fact, she enjoys it. “I like that people ‘see' things in the work, or see where the work seems almost to be on the verge of representation, as in being almost a landscape or portrait,” she says.
That's certainly true of “Graffuturism 1” and Graffuturism 3,” which both have the appearance of landscapes, though decidedly not of the earthly variety.
In “Graffuturism 2,” one of the large pieces on aluminum, there is a kind of landscape in which Frischling says many people see the figure of a large bird. “I would definitely say that even though my work is abstract, it's also figurative, in that an odd subject seems to be the focus of each piece,” she says.
There are elements of a face in the other large piece on aluminum, “Graffuturism 4,” and a deconstructed, three-dimensional landscape in “Graffuturism 5.”
“I would like people to say, ‘What is it?,' ... upon viewing the work ... and then to be lost in a moment of wordless, visual delight,” she says. “Did you ever notice how your mind is refreshed after viewing something along those lines? ... That is my hope.”
Before the “Graffuturism” series, Frischling was exploring the subjects of language, logic, confusion and ambiguity with her digital prints.
That was certainly the case with the piece “Amphiboly,” which explores the idea of logic and redundancy through the repetition of circular forms.
“Reification” and “Fallacy” investigate the idea of making an idea, or building something out of nothing — a visual pun. “I thought, how fitting it is to be made in digital media,” Frischling says. “How these subjects influence the process of change is something I think about.”
“Many artists are exploring ambiguity with regard to identity,” Frischling says. “I choose to explore these questions in a purely abstract way, which I believe is the most relatable and universal, because there are questions for every facet of existence.
“I believe that wonder is a positive thing, and confusion not necessarily a bad thing, because it leads to questions, dialogue and a convergence of ideas.”
“Convergence” is also the title of another series in the show.
With the “Convergence” series, Frischling wanted to show abstractly, the idea of manifesting, of coming together. “I am an optimist,” she says. “Another thing is that I believe a work of art energizes a space with the intentions of the one who made it. That's why one feels positively about the work they are experiencing, or why we respond favorably to some work and less so to others.
“One of my intentions when I make the work is that it makes the viewer feel a sense of well-being, and I try to achieve this through the use of color and geometric harmonies.”
Always looking ahead, Frischling says she has plans to create future series on silk and glass.
And she has already begun making short videos of her digital works. “That would seem to be the perfect medium for exploring movement,” she says, “but my favorite medium is still the printed object for quiet delight and contemplation.”
Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.