Work of artist Ana Guerra displays great technical restraint, yet the impact of her paintings is personal. The entrance to her show at the Cade Tompkins Gallery provides a well-chosen primer in Guerra’s style, which here hovers between illustrative and affective. The small work local space summer introduces a grouping of four paintings each representing a season. The thickness of paint and graduations of color in these diminutive works suggest moisture and light, but their titles also prepare visitors for an exploration of time. This effect of diffused illumination mimics the blur of light through foliage, but layers resolve into broad horizontal bands of color. In each of these four paintings, visitors are introduced to Guerra’s recurring topics of subjective perception, time and natural phenomena through her skilled expressions of impermanence. Guerra’s seasons are familiar yet resist being entirely folded into our own experience.
Inside the next room of the gallery, larger works share gestural but deliberate mark-making and controlled layers of transparency. They invite contemplation; stare long enough at the borders of some shapes, and they shift before your eyes, while wild arrays of color resolve into a carefully controlled palette. Many of Guerra’s works, such as Space for Doubt, share the emphasis of light in certain parts of the canvas, which borrows from techniques of landscape painting while emphasizing the interior logic of the panels themselves.
Suggestions of environment and mood dominate the larger paintings of the main gallery, like to and fro, while an array of small works provide interesting digression into distilled versions of Guerra’s organic shapes. Similarities arise between the subjective and objective: cosmic matter, in Guerra’s small paintings, finds echoes at the cellular level or maybe vice versa.
Guerra graduated from RISD in 1974, and completed the works on view over the last 15 years. Beyond technical rigor, the paintings express the continual renewal of interest in translating intellectual and sensory engagement with the world into an image. Her paintings issue an invitation through recognition or beauty or amibiguity: to be present with past experience.