Torrington gallery exhibits the work of 3 artists infatuated with the line

Linear transformations
Friday, March 25, 2016
Image caption: Nancy Lasar- “Long Sound Series #1” 2015, (10” x 10”) Monotype with Encaustic on Panel.
The line is where it all begins.

It is the basis of imagination, the ballast of form, the inspiration for all gesture — architectural and artistic.

Its permutations bring us chaos and enlightenment, tranquility and terror. Five Points Gallery in Torrington has gathered three artists together whose work is united in its infatuation with line: Nancy Lasar, David Borawski and Maggie Jay Horne.

The connections, particularly with Borawski, who is a more political artist, may seem tenuous, but in the work of Lasar and Horne in particular, it is palpable.

And powerful.

Horne’s obsession, comes through in the calligraphic ink on paper she creates to fashion what appear to be entire maps out of a few eyelash-length lines, placed on top of and adjacent to one another. Seen close together, they suggest an ancient language, perhaps Sanskrit.

But from a distance they form their own geography, which looks, ironically, computer generated. Horne’s point appears to be that the line can create its own territory, or that imagination, applied with sedulous attention, generates a cartography all its own.

Horne’s textile work moves from that idea of linear repetition, but this time, the lines are of wool or lace, a kind of tatting that Horne attaches to her grandmother’s doily, as if adding contemporary commentary on what was once “women’s work.”

Her central piece, “Shroud,” comprises a series of textiles, all woven, sewn, braided or corded together through hemp. It’s tempting to view the work as one’s own embroidered ecclesiastical creed, but Horne suggests it is more maternal than that. Her artist statement suggests the textiles are protective, “acting as a physical barrier to the outside world, shielding the inner self.”

Lasar’s work takes up the bulk of this exhibit, as it should. At 71, the Washington, Conn., artist has established herself as one of the premiere printmakers in the area. In the past few years she has pushed the traditional boundaries of the medium, adding chine colle as well as encaustic to stretch the reach of printmaking. Many of those experimentations — like her use of encaustic in smaller forms — have been surprisingly effective.

But what shines, still, is Lasar’s remarkable printmaking. Her works are elegant and ethereal, testaments to the warp and woof of existence, intimate and global. The prints are alternately suggestive of deep interiors and worldwide despair. The works, with their clawing, menacing tendrils and quietly lethal stalks are suggestive of a world of terror, unbound by reason, where ribbons of ragged tracks curl, twist and strangle.

For good reason, Lasar’s works have been described as “drawing with light.”

What that means, in the case of these prints, is that Lasar plays with the opacity of print, filtered through the energy of line. It’s the line in Lasar’s prints that is always the most electrifying. They appear as singular electrical wires, jerking, swaying, whipping and buckling to some internal energy force that is as potent as it is erratic.

At least it seems erratic, which may be part of Lasar’s point. Perhaps what we see in life as capricious and fitful is actually more obvious and intentional than we suspect. Even serendipity bends to a pattern.

Lasar plays frequently with the image of a vase as a container of sorts — domestic or spiritual, it is hard to be sure. The vase, in the case of four works here, sits on a shaker table, as ascetic and fixed as the vase’s contents are volatile and vivacious. In works like “Shaker Table With Lemon and Pear,” objects and glyphs appear — hard-edged and ghostly — in the center of the vase and then shoot out, serpent-like, in quivering shafts of bone white and bubble gum pink.

These marks, which arc and sway, curve and veer, have a similarity to them. Lasar has managed to create a vocabulary of gesture that is her own distinctive voice. The balletic lines are met by images of decaying leaves or fish, butterflies or seed pods, or, in one case, a bird. They could be read as vessels of all of life’s splendor and prickliness, the tender caress here, the lacerating claw there, pincers and pillows, all alike in their delicate incarnation.

A few of Lasar’s smaller encaustic are included here but are not match for her two glorious acrylic landscapes or more sinister prints, including “Kiss Cloud,” a neat approximation of weltschmerz. As a painter, Lasar gains in expression what she loses in precision. Her two landscapes here, including “Meditation Grove,” swim with energy, dynamism and a sense of precariousness. Within the confectionary pinks, slate grays and tangerine oranges, the image of two faces — woman and girl emerge. This is the space they share, at once confined and conflicted, nurturing and foreboding. This is the world enchanting and enveloping, terrorizing and tantalizing. Lasar gets all of this through her unsettling, soothing and expressive lines. It is magical and mysterious, a glorious testament to the power of line to expose and expand life.