Francesca Fuchs, “Paintings of Paintings,” at Talley Dunn Gallery (2012)

When you recall a painting you once saw, perhaps years ago, maybe as a child, how does it appear to you now? Do you remember it well? Vividly? How has the image softened or altered over the years? Has the painting so changed with time that what you now recall is something else? Francesca Fuchs’ latest work, “Paintings of Paintings,” at Talley Dunn Gallery, seems to explore this possibility.

Long ago, memory (Mnemosyne) was a goddess. She was the inventress of language, the mother of the muses and a patroness of poets. She personified remembrance and her mythology revealed the relation between recollection and art. The ancients knew that memory, in an intended sense, was an act of creativity and skill. Images, words, events, experiences — memories — have never been static units of information awaiting our active recollection. It’s all much more labyrinthine and mysterious than that. It’s a creative retrieval of form or event or way from the stirring waters of thought. And as memory is a creative act of Epimethean thinking so is it essentially interpretive. It’s bookended by interpretation. Such a play upon memory and difference is what makes Fuchs’ work a bit more interesting that it might initially appear.

As the show title so straightly and honestly communicates, Fuchs’ paintings are indeed paintings of paintings, frames and all. Yet you quickly find yourself wondering if they are paintings of “real” paintings or ones she’s merely imagined. In fact, as you look around you might even find yourself wondering if you’ve seen them before or imagined ones much like them. You see renderings in all manner of styles from past decades and centuries, and each work tickles your recollection of art history. You see something Rococo, something Cubist, something by Searles or Stella or someone else. After awhile, once you’re fairly convinced they’re not actual paintings you’ve half-forgotten, you begin to suspect that they are instead composites of types of paintings, ones entirely invented from historic signatures.

Her loose and painterly style, taken with her muted pastel palette, conveys a sense of dreamy distance, much like memories. But they are only fictitious creations mimicking memories. They have only been imaginatively received and re-presented as looser semblances. Any clarity to which they allude has been replaced by a practiced imprecision, thus marking a transition from the world of sight into the world of creative remembrance and fading vision.

—Andy Amato, PhD

Andy Amato is a Dallas-based artist, writer and teacher

(This originally appeared in Arts+Cultural Magazine)

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