Valerie Jaudon’s recent paintings continue her longstanding examination, begun in the mid-1970s, of the bounded, yet infinitely expandable world of the finely wrought, intricate, and maze-like abstract image. This exhibition is titled Prepositions, and refers – obliquely of course – to a word or words governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause. These paintings function as abstract connectors, as visual demonstrations of organizing, placing, locating, and explaining. Prepositions are most often simple words – “inside,” “outside,” “next to,” “before,” “after” – but they allow for complexity, accuracy, and comprehensibility.
Jaudon’s paintings are similarly complex, exact, and knowable. They combine clarity, flatness, precision, and ready apprehension with a slowed down, demanding part-to-part, part-to-whole read. It is an arena where sensual, carefully worked and refractive surfaces push up against the steady rhythm of structured lines – forms laid out in arrays that seem to be on one hand perfectly logical and legible, useful and practical (in a metaphorical way), and on the other, tantalizingly elusive and austerely romantic.
Most of her titles come from the world of music, and the musical underpinnings of her work show themselves in multifaceted contrapuntal organizations combined with visually melodic passages nearly undone by carefully implanted dissonance, and by the persistence of organizing themes and articulated movements. A simplified palette, evocative of the classical world – white, black, the rich umber of exposed linen, the occasional blued steel gray – gives the work a certain deliberate (and deliberative) cadence and calm. It turns the eye to the painting as a whole, away from the artist’s evident virtuosity and steady hand, her involvement in every part of the carefully crafted object.
This work has been long in the making and Prepositions is the latest phase of a career that has approached painting with the gravity and seriousness it deserves, but also with a sense of playfulness, pleasure, and visual wit. These are paintings to think about, experience, and enjoy.
Valerie Jaudon: Prepositions