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SHIFTING FIELDS

Iris Schmeisser, 2005
Curatorial assistent Museum of Modern Art New York, NY, USA

"Organic forms and natural materials have always fascinated me." Organic forms and natural materials, arranged and combined as "shiftingfields" of color, reign supreme in Roswitha Huber's most recent paintings:fields of color, ascending and descending in tone, border on each other in shifting patterns of consonance and dissonance. There is shifting also in the rhythm of each painting. Contrasting fields emerge where broadbrushstrokes meeting thin and often dripping lines of color construct
frames of fields. Diaphanous colors, often warm and gentle colors, are juxtaposed with bright fields of strong color, vertical and horizontal lines that add a rational structure to the more intuitive application of paint. These lines literally contain the flow of each painting by forcing the colors into frames. The striking presence of these lines enhances the luminosity of the color fields and adds rhythm to the artist's visual composition by providing contrast. Black and white lines intervene and add structure to freely floating forms. Whereas the color fields in the artist's work have a strongly atmospheric and sensuous quality, the insertion of rigid contrasting lines in strong and dark colors, or in contrasting black and white, highlights the temporal process of spatial layering. Luscious colors and shapes seem to pulsate next to each other, evoking visual memories of how nature's colors shift with the changing play of the sun light of each season.
Usually working with multiple visual media and materials, Huber does not give preference to one mode of expression over another. She remains open instead to a variety of styles and themes; she frequently arranges the compositional elements of her works in relation to each other, consciously emphasizing the material quality of her paintings. Working with layers of color as well as meaning, her process is self-reflective, each step influenced by what came before. With her most recent works, the artist has taken this meta-artistic dimension to extremes by introducing a radically new formal language that emerges from, yet also departs from, her previous work: shifting fields of color arranged in a strictly horizontal orientation. "The stripes are my retreat into pure color", as she puts it. Pure abstraction seems to have erased the traces of representationalism so persistently visible in her previous work. What remains, and what is radically shifted to the foreground, are horizontal shapes and colors in their pure simplicity and monolithic expressiveness.
Yet the system of pure color fields she introduces in these paintings is undeniably ambivalent. Set against each other, the series of stripes and the borders between them are both clear and ambiguous. Palimpsest-like, fading in and out, they blur the very borders they define, thus giving evidence to both the existence of the field and the process of its shifting. Working horizontally, the artist places the canvas on the floor while layers of color are set against and on top of each other: "These works are all about color, form and fields of color. This system, however, is constantly undermined, simultaneously transcended" according to the artist. This ambivalence is created by the simultaneity of control and improvisation. The difference in media that the artist chooses to combine in her work is of critical importance. Her deliberate choice of disparate liquids such as oil and vinegar or extremely different materials such as acrylic and water color provide room for the accidental in her work as colors, to a certain degree, work independently with and against each other on canvas.
"Spring Point I" for instance, represents one of the most radical works in Huber's latest series of paintings. Here, the principle of horizontality dominates the canvas. The artist applies no visual demarcation that would forcibly cut and stop these horizontal lines. Rather, they seem to transcend the artificial frame imposed onto them. "Spring Point I" does not allow the viewers' eye to focus. The eye follows the shifting fields either in sets from top to bottom or, remaining within one field, visually traces them on a horizontal plane moving back and forth. The painting's sets of fields seem to reverberate, an effect achieved by toning down the contrast between complementary colors: red mixed with white merges into pastel shades of pink phasing into orange, thus forming a cluster which is set against green mixed with white, a soft layer that fades out beyond the edge of the canvas. Symmetrically weighing against the color clusters of red-orange and green-white in the upper half of the painting is a set of stripes composed of black-blue and white at the bottom, layers of paint that belie the workings of chance. According to the artist, it is color – and color only – that inspires the title of her paintings. They are pointers that allow us to enter and retreat into each work's shifting fields.