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Claire Colette, Incantation: A Fantastical World Surrounds Me and Is Me, 2021

Claire Colette, Incantation: A Fantastical World Surrounds Me and Is Me, 2021

Freshly minted on Melrose Avenue, Harper’s Los Angeles has quickly become a space to see and be seen. Claire Colette’s second solo show with the gallery, Derealization, whips up an Arcadian dreamscape through a unique potpourri of materials. In reference to the comely vistas that surround Los Angeles, Colette mediates between symbolic incantations to the universe and our understanding of reality. By incorporating non-legible script into her paintings she questions the brevity of human life while slowing down to address quiet moments of intimacy.  

Acting as a point of departure, the lapping foothills of La Crescenta serve as a solitudinous foray into Colette’s existential contemplation. In Radiant Spring, 2021, soft grayish-blue washes of acrylic and rainwater summon up a receding mountain panorama at dusk. Momentary perceptions are compiled together from the natural world to build a visual language using color and shape. The work of revered artist Etel Adnan and in specific her homages to Mount Tamalpais in Marin County are in conversation with Colette’s emblematic self-reflection. Speaking on the power of nature, Adnan found sanctuary in the mountains and used them in her work as a metaphoric representation of hope. On a similar note, Colette invites the viewer to ponder on the intricacies of the physical terrain and transforms landscape into a topography of human memory. 

Literature and its relationship to the immaterial world are embedded within the greater framework of the collective body of work. Pulling from the metrical compositions of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, l’enfance, l’herbe, la pluie, le lac sur les pierres, le clair de lune quand le clocher sonnait douze, 2021, features a non-legible sigil etched over a blue-green sloping horizon. Edges of the painting have flowers with airbrush infused with crystal, sand, and incense. As a way to fuse writing and painting, Colette incorporates sigils - inscribed script for incantation - as protective emblems of healing. Furthermore, Hilma Af Klint’s series of paintings titled, The Ten Largest, 1907, also makes use of esoteric symbols to diagram a disembodied plane. While Klint’s theosophical visualization became the ethos of her painting, Colette focuses attention on the divine vastness of a continuously expanding universe.

Alluding to semiotics and the creation of symbols, Material-Semiotic Generative Node (Expanded Subjectivity), 2021, is composed of focal points that act as a star pattern or nebulous point of connection. The ‘material-semiotic generative node’ was coined by Donna Haraway to define the human body as an ‘object of knowledge' that is interconnected with the Earth—as opposed to the Earth only being a resource for human life. Colette’s purposeful use of natural materials expands on Haraway’s theory by prompting a reckoning with one’s own impact on the environment. Colette deliberates on ecological conservation by using biodegradable mediums for each painting including ash, lavender, salt, roses, resin incense, and cedar. In Incantation: A Fantastical World Surrounds Me and Is Me, 2021, a nightscape is procured with resplendent sigils and gold cross-marks. When photographed the painting takes on a plaster quality in which the sigils look inscribed into the material, however, in-person it has a softness that recalls Nicolas de Staël’s, Méditerranée, 1952. 

Truly we are part of the planet and the resources we consume are in crisis. Colette’s atmospheric paintings provide an entry point to human ritualistic practices and enables deeper conversation on ecological regeneration. Her work opens a hopeful portal of rejuvenation for a disembodied landscape—Ricky Amadour

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