Material Worlds: Nola Avienne’s

The richness of Nola Avienne’s work invites visual indulgence. Captivating the eye through highly textural, densely composed imagery, her sculptures and mixed media works hover within the classic duality of the beautiful and the grotesque without perpetuating clichés. The Seattle artist distinguishes her work through the use of unusual mediums, best known for her meticulously crafted sculptures comprised of iron filings. Some of these manifest as intricate forms reminiscent of lush, fungal-like organisms; others demonstrate the kinetic potential of their magnetic medium through geometric mechanisms that circulate quietly in slow motion. -- Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor

Nola Avienne | since feeling is first, gesso, shoe polish, carbon paper, blood, acrylic, and watercolor on paper. 2011. 16 x 10 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Avienne’s new show, currently on view at Seattle’s SOIL Gallery, distills the curious qualities of her past three-dimensional pieces into small, carefully composed paintings that incorporate acrylic, gesso, shoe polish and blood. The artist’s transition to painting for this series continues her stream-of-consciousness flow between mediums: the iron filings of her earlier sculptures inspired more recent investigations of blood’s magnetic properties, as seen in mixed media series Chemistries of the Body (2009-2010) and blood-portrait series The Donor Wall Project (2008-2009).  The new work sheds the iron filings, working exclusively in a two-dimensional sphere.

Nola Avienne | The Waves, carbon paper and blood on paper. 2011. 10 x 13 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Nola Avienne | Against the Weaver, blood on paper. 2011. 4 x 4 5/8 in. Courtesy of the artist. consists of eleven paintings, eight of which were made this year, while the remaining three were made eleven years ago. While the older works are more straightforward in their uses of acrylic and gouache, the paintings created in 2011 build upon the artist’s more recent thread of mediums; blood seeps through the paper in varying levels of saturation as though it were an unnaturally thick watercolor paint, while shoe polish appropriates the dense, luminescent qualities of oils in the darkest of hues.

Nola Avienne |  Under the Weft.  blood and carbon paper on paper. 2011. 4 x 4 5/8 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Nola Avienne | 赤い糸 (red thread), gesso, shoe polish, pencil, acrylic, and blood on panel.  2011. 16 x 20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

The entangled 赤い糸 (red thread) forms a mass of elaborate, tentacle-like tendrils that echo the elaborately layered, seemingly natural textures of Avienne’s sculptural works.   Waves similarly continues pursuits of past series, as delicate waves drawn with carbon paper and blood are accented by tiny dots; reminiscent of single iron filings resting on a surface, the image seems as though it is about to be brushed away.  The diminutive scale, dark materials and ornate embellishments found within the paintings of create a overarching sense of morbid curiosity consistent across Avienne’s full body of work, suggesting how paintings from eleven years prior could fit so seamlessly with the artist’s most recent work; the investigation remains largely the same, yet each incarnation fully renews the visceral experience. The success of these explorations can thus be gauged by the persisting question: what comes next? will be on view at SOIL through November 26, 2011.

Nola Avienne | Iatoacats (from the walter benjamin quote “ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars”). oil on gator board, salt, tire, magnets & iron filings. 2009. 27 x 27 x 2 in. Courtesy of the artist. *not included in


Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Adult Public Programs Coordinator at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)


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