This is the work of a painter
New paintings by Jeanine Cohen
It is no coincidence that the paintings of Belgian artist Jeanine Cohen have made their way to Iceland. Somehow her work belongs here. It talks in a quiet and self-contained way about the extreme opposites that the nature of this country is famous for, bringing together a seemingly abstract method of working and a strong sense of detail.
Cohen has never been to Iceland, however. Her work is the result of a more general kind of intense observation.
By looking intensely, especially at her working surroundings, she explores “connections between colour, light, space, and objects”. She is interested in the moment “when objects and space fall into each other, the blend of concrete detail and ambiguous abstraction”. These citations, as well as the title of this article, come from a book that Cohen has made consisting of wonderful photographs she takes herself. In them, specific details of her working table become abstract and vice versa.
Even when Cohen takes pictures like these, she is still a painter. She can also paint with various kinds of plastic materials: catching the changing light in sheets of plastic foil attached to a wall or catching a colour in a plastic box. Above all, she paints with the light emanating from the sides of her canvasses covered with fluorescent paint.
In addition to working with light and colour, there is her careful balancing of canvasses differing in size and thickness. The smaller canvasses above are thicker than the larger ones below, creating an interesting tension. One is urged to move around these paintings, to look at them from all sides, to observe what is happening with them and how the distance between them plays a delicate role.
During my last visit to Reykjavik, I noticed a citation in Kjarvalsstadir by the famous painter, Johannes Kjarval, on the changes of moss colour. Cohen’s recent series of large-scale paintings seem somehow in conversation with what Kjarval had to say, if only because both artists care for precise observation. Cohen has found a new balance in these paintings–their greys and greens seem to translate different states of moss, whereas the light that emanates from the sides seems to point to an inner heat, like lava, or the ever-present light of summer.
- Edith Doove