NY Arts Magazine, 2007
NY Arts Magazine, 2004
NY Arts Magazine, 2001
Review Magazine, 1999
Cover Magazine, 1999
Essay by Jonathan Goodman
Sky Pape Retrospective: Ink,
Scissors, Paper, at River Stone Arts
Review by Pamela A. Popeson, NY Arts Magazine, July 2007
A strikingly impressive mid-career retrospective of the artist Sky
Pape’s work is currently on view at River Stone Arts, a 10,000 square
foot gallery space in Haverstraw, New York, a small, arty blue collar
town on the west bank of the Hudson river twenty-five minutes north
of New York City.
Pape’s work is widely exhibited and is in several major museum
collections including the MoMA and the Guggenheim as well numerous
private collections. This exhibit features 59 abstract drawings
from six series or bodies of work dating from 1998 to the present.
While each of the series communicates its own set of investigations
and revelations there is sense of interrelated explorations felt
at the heart of the larger body of work.
In physics, work is defined as the product of a force times the
distance through which that force acts. The same definition can
apply to the arts. With Pape’s work the distance is hopefully not
yet fully known but the force running through these six bodies of
work is best described (by name in Chinese at least) as Qi,
or Chi, he Chinese Taoist concept of a force, a circulating
life energy, inherent in all things.
There is no single word in English to describe this force, perhaps
because Qi is known, felt and understood viscerally rather
then intellectually. And in the way that Qi is much more
than its definition Pape’s drawings are much more than a description
of the materials or the manner of her manipulations of the materials.
The drawings are essentially poetic narratives or intimate abstract
portraits of the existent energies, organic and inorganic, found
in ourselves or in nature, energies we recognize as life force (AKA
Being inherent in all things, Qi is felt by all beings and
by definition felt universally and individually at the same time.
Similarly we respond to Pape’s drawings with a personal reaction
to a universal experience.
In the earliest series in the exhibit “Inklings,” Pape has
built simple yet sublime abstract patterns from torn and reassembled
handmade paper (expanding it and/or folding it back on itself) combined
with or accompanied with her specific ink work. In “Drawing Breath,”
her most recent body of work, the artist blows inks onto, over,
and across handmade (and in some cases rare) papers and cuts and
layers fields, forms and filigreed line drawings of paper. These
lithe and lyrical abstract collages seem to have come to us straight
from the aesthetic realm of the ether, fluent in all languages and
ready to communicate if not an innate comprehensive knowledge of
all things then certainly a wonder at life.
The works are placed by series in intimate groupings, yet the openness
of the space offers views of each group juxtaposed with an earlier
or later group, revealing the shared themes as well as a sense of
the artist’s journey. The ink work of the “Inklings” drawings
leads to the impossibly bold and free yet poignantly precise brushed
ink strokes of the saturated ink drawings of the “Behind the
Seen” body of work with a stop along the way for exploring the
form and meditative movement achieved though the layered graphite
lines in the “Silver Lining” group.
Pape considers herself a drawer and uses the set of traditional
drawing materials: pen, inks, in brush, pencil, graphite, and papers.
Clearly the work comes out of the drawing tradition, but it goes
to a very contemporary place in the most meaningful of ways. Pape
says a goal is to “add to the vocabulary” of drawing. However, her
intimate relationship with her materials allows her to take her
drawings to a point beyond what would seem possible, moving well
past adding to the vocabulary and into the position of expanding
the fundamental grammar of drawing.