I posted this painting by Costa Rican artist Shilowska Pretto yesterday and asked people to guess what it was. You might be surprised  to learn that it was nothing  more and  nothing  less  than oil  paint  on canvas.
When I first saw Ms Pretto’s work I had no idea what sort of material’s she was using to create it. I thought it might be fibreglass  (a  few of my surfboard  repair jobs looked a bit like that back in the mid-90s) or plastic.
Like a lot of people here, I thought the image  was  reminiscent of  those aerial photographs of a tropical island, where the  drifting  sand bars smudge under the  water and toxic oil  spills  stands out. I wanted to post the image here without any information,  just  to  see  how easily,  or not, it might trick the human eye in this format ( the original, large  canvas  on a  gallery wall  might  be easier to tell).
Ordinarily Trompe-l’œil is an artistic term reserved for the realistic representation of a material object   that  tricks  the  eye  into  believing that  the  two-dimensional  image  is  actually three dimensional.  Here  is  one  famous  example,  Mantegna’s oculus on the ceiling of the Spouses Chamber, castle of San Giorgio in Italy.
What  is  impressive  about  Pretto’s  work  is  that she has managed to create a kind of abstract-expressionist Trompe-l’œil. I can’t think of any other abstract artist who work could elicit so many contrary ideas about what it actually represents: Rothko,  Pollock,  Newman, Still, none of these artists offer work that plays such tricks on our senses (although, rather oddly, Pollock is perhaps the artist whose work most closely mirrors Pretto’s in terms of process) .
For what it is, Pretto’s paint on canvas shouldn’t look like anything more than paint on a canvas. Maybe, just maybe, some of the people who responded yesterday had a sneaking suspicion that it was a painting, but you had a guess anyway. The thing is, once you allow yourself to assume that it is something else, it’s not difficult at all to start imagining all sorts of possibilities, as yesterday’s experiment showed. If you look more carefully, the area up the top right-hand side of the picture plane has a few hints of brush-strokes, but overall, the image does look remarkably realistic and non-painterly. I think it’s power  lies  in the  fact that  it  appeals to  our  imagination through the senses.  This   frees  the  imagination  far  more  than  if  it  were  appealed  to  by  way of reason
(recognising the formal representations of objects in the world).

I was quite interested in  the artistic  process,  and I wanted to ask  Pretto if she had any kind of rough image in her mind of  what she wanted to create before or  after beginning the work ? Or did the painting actually create itself?
Someone who picked the artist and her work commented yesterday that:

“It’s a painting created by allowing the paint to flow however it wants over the canvas.”
I certainly don’t believe it’s as completely random as that, the artist must make certain choices that affect the creation of the image in terms of colour and form.
In the end I decided not to ask Pretto about the process because it’s nicer to be left with some sense of wonder,  like  when a  magician  makes   a rabbit   disappear  from  a  hat.
Pretto was born in Costa Rica some time before the first Costa Rican astronaut, Franklin Chang,  flew  into  space,  although  she claims to be something of a space-cadet herself. Before she began  painting  she  worked  as  a  graphic  and  interior  designer,  painting enormous murals across the walls and ceilings of Costa Rican villas and institutions. Her artist’s biography states::
The central theme of her work is the liberation of form using natural born patterns, light and reflection. In  2010  she  becomes  part of the  Austrian base,  multimedia  and  artist representation group Butterflies & Bunnyrabbits. The artist´s agenda for 2010 starts with an exhibition at the Artist´s Space of Le Meridien Hotel in Vienna and continues with an European tour including Monte Carlo and Milan.
(text: Aurelia Garrido)

Elsewhere, Pretto has stated:
In this attempt to shape my view of the world I’ve learned that the process of painting is very much like the process of living… you have to  approach it  with humbleness and try not to get in the way of what is seeking expression through you.
There you go, so maybe the artist does work very much as a conduit between Ideas and Forms ( greater  than  the sum of her creative parts)  and the  canvas  onto  which those Forms take shape.
If you’ve read any art  catalogues  recently  you  might  have been left with a feeling that literary physics has a new home in the visual arts. It hasn’t, catalogues are often a lot of sound and fury indicating nothing much in the way of great ideas or images. There is a lot of great work out there, and there is a lot of literary pretention and bullshit employed to disguise very average work. What is refreshing about Pretto’s outlook is that it stands in contrast to the kind of verbose, egoistic artist as potent  creative force  nonsense you get in many contemporary art catalogues. Sometimes when artists offer  an exegesis of their work it reads  like a  psychotically  anxious  and  obtuse rendering of  the philosophy  of Foucault  and  Lacan  with  the imagination  of Paris Hilton. A bit of humility in contemporary art (or life) is never a bad thing.
There are thousands of great artists working around the world today and only a few will ever become firmly established with international reputations ( and  not  always because of the qualitiy of their work). I was advised by  my  publishers to use twitter  earlier  this year. I did as I was told, and while I was initially skeptical, I’ve  found  it  a  fantastic  way to meet artists and writers around the world (as well as a few Splatters). It’s just something you need to keep in its place, but thanks to Twitter I’m meeting the Irish
author Julian  Gough  in  Berlin  in  April,  I’m chatting regularly  with  American  author Elise  Blackwell,  and  I’ll  start  writing more posts like this one,  about  artists  working around the world whose work I think is outstanding.
On a  purely  aesthetic and sensory level, if I were offered a dozen Damien Hirst’s or one of Pretto’s works, I know  whose  original  painting  I’d  be  snapping  up.  Pretto’s  work reveals something quite rare: an artist and a painter with an original vision and the talent (and humility) to create images that fully realise those ideas on the canvas.

In enger Kooperation zwischen dem österreichischenKünstler Franke und der Künstlerin conté mit Unterstutzung des Ministeriums fürKultur und dem österreichischen Konsulat in Costa Rica, und den Pan AromaEvents, der Kunstlerautausch zwischen Costa Rica und Osterreich umgesetztwerden.
Für die Costa Ricanerin ist ihre ersteAusstellung in Europa. Eine weitere soll in Paris folgen. Ihre neustenArbeiten, zeigen abstrakte Materialkompositionen. “ This body of work is theculmination of several years of experimenting with Light, reflection, and theuse of non-traditional materials . This long time quest has being a search for a technique that allowedme to move away from my preconceived ideas in painting, and above all, fulfillmy Desire to liberate form and and take advantage of the magical,transformative qualities of Light”. Ähnlich wie bei vorangegangenen abstrakten Strömungen,man denke an die New York School in den 1950er Jahren, geht es der Künstlerinvorrangig um den Arbeitsprozess selber. Indem sie von der traditionellenMalerei ablasst, entstehen ausdrucksgesteigert Materialassemblagen. Es ist eineorganische, chaotische Kunst, in der die Materialien immer noch zu fliessenscheinen. Die materielle Symbiose zwischen Lacken, Spiegeln und Paillettenfuhrt zum Licht und dessen Reflexion. “ My work is base don exploring the quality of light andreflection. “Das Licht, das in der Kunst das nicht-materielle, dasmeta-physiche darstellt, verweist in Prettos arbeiten auf den mystischenCharakter ihrer Bilder. Es sind Bilder, in denen der Betrachter in AndereWelten Blicken darf. Die grosstenteils monochromen Kompositionen verweisendurch Materialen auf immaterielle Wert im Hintergrund. Es ist eine subjektiveund mystische Kunst im Sinne eines Yves Klein, die Welten und Emotionen zuoffnen Vermag.
Denise Sumi

The Luxury of Light: the art of Shilowska Pretto

 The clocks have gone back;  days are  shortening, shadows lengthening depressingly early, as we hurtle towards midwinter. The light is suddenly  at a premium: we treasure those  fleeting,  crisp, golden autumn days; we make our Jack-O’-Lanterns, our bonfires, and fill the sky with fireworks; Diwali begins; lamps are lit, we hunker down and think about that great tangle of  Christmas  tree twinklers that will soon need unravelling…
At this time of year Shilowska’s shining art is, I find, irresistible.

All painting is essentially about ‘painting’, about what it as a medium can do. In Shilowska’s words:
“…light, reflection…a search for a technique that  allowed me  to move  away from my preconceived ideas in painting, and above all, fulfil my desire  to liberate form and take advantage of the magical, transformative qualities of light..”

Composed of mixed media – non-traditional materials such as car paint, sequins, glassy mosaics, as well as oils – on canvas, these pieces really are Light as Object of>

The paintings exude for me a gleaming preciousness  and  glamour, a warm richness that appeals to my shameless wintry desire to indulge myself:“Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté. “*
(From Baudelaire’s L’Invitation au Voyage in Les Fleurs du Mal.)

I love that,  the ‘calme’,  the  tranquil  timelessness;  the  smooth  languor of the gently flowing paint which is allowed to go desultorily, lazily, where it will, creating an image of…
Well, what?

Something both macrocosmic and microcosmic; organic patterns reflective of distant galaxies, fathomless oceans, the filigree delicacy of a spider’s web.
Or gorgeous, enchanting magpie dreams.
You choose.
Santa, if you’re listening:
I want.
* “There, everything is but order and beauty, / Luxury, peace and pleasure.”

  L’artista,la sua poetica e la mostra dall’Acqua Nasce l’Anima:
L’artistalavora nell’ambito dell’arte astratta con uno stile molto freso e raffinato.
Le opere  hanno un aspetto molto  acquatico,   interessante  è  la ricerca dei  materiali e dei  colori  dalle tinte metalliche e smaltate.
Questielementi tecnici sono parte di una ricerca più ampia dell’artista sulla luce,le sue simbologie e il modo in cui essa interagisce con lo spettatore.
L’acqua  e  le forme  liquide  diventano  elementi  cardine  di  questa  ricerca:  schizzi  di vernice  si  muovono in maniera spontaneamente vitale  su dei fondisfumati che creano profondità spaziale e pathos.
Lavita nasce dall’acqua  e come l’acqua si manifesta in innumerevoli formedi incredibile bellezza, tuttavia è la luce a dare un senso a questa vita, unadirezione, uno scopo più alto e importante.
ShilowskaPretto, sembra essere alla ricerca dell’origine di questa luce  che forse possiamo  chiamare  anima  o spirito, essa è intorno a noi, sopra di noi ma è allostesso tempo  anche  dentro  di noi come una fiamma vitale o un luccichio che tintinna al nostro interno e che è in risonanza  con l’universointero.
Questistupendi lavori parlano di trascendente e di una via spirituale che deve esserenaturale e non imposta o regolata da regole  ferree,  ma  ci  parla  anche di auto-affermazione  personale. E’ solo con  un  contatto  più consapevole con laspiritualità e il mondo  trascendente che   possiamo  affermare  noi  stessi  ed essere  delle creature migliori, più belle.
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