SHIFTING WATERS: NEW DRAWINGS
"Any line drawn on a sheet of paper... is like a rock thrown into a pond. It upsets the repose, it mobilizes space. Seeing is the perception of action."
----- Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception
Questions related to vision, patterns, dynamics, meaning and expression reside at the very heart of the new drawings by Janis Goodman on view in this exhibition. As described by Rudolf Arnheim, "every visual pattern is dynamic" and Goodman's refined, economical and, at times, explosive drawings on the theme of water are very much about both the nature of physical stimuli and visual perceptions. They are also very much about the act of mark-making. In combination, these elements attest to the focus and diligence of the artist's eye, mind and hand - a synchronous exploration, dialogue and translation among a triumvirate of forces. The excitement of these drawings is in no small way generated by their "mobilization of space" and "perception of action."
Goodman's drawings are less about romantic notions of nature or open-air views; although they are generated from interaction with specific places and speak to the artist's personal history. Instead, through a series of what we might call "interventions," Goodman interacts with nature by either directly drawing or imprinting into a mud flat, or acting as the catalyst for a splash. These actions are photographed and later recalled, reconfigured and re-experienced in the studio. They are not direct transcriptions of nature as much as they are artistic recollections of nature. The "imprint" series and "splash" series (if we can use these terms) are complemented by the quieter, more purely observational works related to tidal basins and the exploration of slow-moving water.
Few artists were as obsessed with the study of water as Leonardo da Vinci. In water Leonardo found the full range of paradox and mutability that seemed to characterize nature as a whole. For Leonardo, water was to nature what blood was to the human body. Water was "the vehicle of nature" -- varietal in its quality, mutable in its form, variable in its substance, speed, temperature and power -- "the cause at times of life or death."
In the "shifting waters" portrayed by Janis Goodman in this exhibition, the on-going quest to understand, explore and reveal the many subtleties of water are wedded to new strategies, processes and working methods. Like Leonardo's investigations, however, Goodman's drawings attest to the continuing power and relevance of nature, time and the creative impulse.
David M. Gariff
National Gallery of Art