It was an evening at the height of New England spring that welcomed the opening display of Kim Després-Villard’s show at Evie Salon: Oxydo-Gravures | Reforestation Series.
The artworks are a tangle of geometric and abstracted form where images of forest are easily found. Tall tree bodies rise through the vertical surface and negative spaces are graced with blocks of earthy blue and green watercolor. Each work has a quality of light and shadow that successfully evokes the disorderly beauty of a quiet wood.
An American artist living and working in France, Després-Villard is one of two people in the world who uses oxydo-gravure. Inspired by the work of Guy Breniaux whom she met through the UN in his studio near Geneva, Switzerland in 1986, she creates unique engravings on paper from oxidized metal. This technique combines printmaking and painting in such a way that satisfies two of her artistic interests at once.
The making of oxydo-gravures engages natural elements and a chemical process that most people have observed for themselves: oxidized iron. Iron oxide is also known as rust; it forms when iron is exposed to oxygen for a long period of time. Laid out on paper in the open air for weeks or months at a time – while animals and insects inevitably wander across the print surface – the exposed metal rests. Black markings emerge from one type of metal while the familiar, sienna-red of rust will develop from another. Water is the catalyst for this process; it is dew from the Mediterranean Sea that collects on Depres-Villard’s paper and metal objects to leave behind a beautiful print.
When the oxidizing has completed, Kim works into the print with graphite and watercolor, leaving a margin of unedited surface which leaves the viewer with space, like a sky, to breathe in. In many pieces, soft and natural color is surprised by a very small taste of bright orange, or a precisely outlined leaf that stands out from among the abstraction of a tree canopy. These small moments have a degree of focus that hint at the human way of finding clarity amid chaos.
Every element of the Reforestation Series has a deep connection with time. Time is required for the oxidation process, time was taken by the bamboo shoots made into printing paper to grow, and humanity itself grew with time, forging metal tools and inhabiting the Mediterranean valley for ages where the prints are now created by Després-Villard.
Viewing them within such a human time of fear and complexity, the pieces inspire a calming patience with the same authority of an old-growth tree.
Come and see them while on display at Evie Salon Studio, through June 2017.
View More www.villardstudios.com