Universal Connections in the Art of Anicée

Written by: Peter Wiley

Aesthetic relationships can often cross cultural barriers and manifest in unexpected ways. One such example can be seen in the possibly unintended yet striking Asian feeling in the compositions of the gifted young contemporary painter who exhibits under the single name of Anicée.

Born in the French Alps of a French father and a Tunisian mother, Anicée presently lives and works in Montreal Canada, where she creates canvases exploring the diversity of nature in terms that reflect her mixed heritage, of which she says, "I try to merge the richness of both cultures."

Although Anicée also asserts that she strives to achieve "universality" in her art, as far as one knows, she has special interest in the art of China and Japan, having more than enough in her own background to inspire her. Yet a kinship with Asian art manifests nonetheless, not only stylistically but in Anicée's approach to nature, judging from the work on view in the exhibition "Abstract Concepts," on view at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from May 10 to 30, with a reception on May 15 from 6 to 8 PM.

To begin with, Anicée tends to prefer working monochromatically in her mixed media paintings on canvas, as well as in her silkscreen prints. Thus both invite comparison to traditional Chinese painting, in which black ink on white paper suffices to suggest every color in the spectrum. Aside from obvious exceptions such as the black and white compositions of Franz Kline and a few others, monochromatic painting, otherwise known as grisaille, is relatively rare in modern Western painting. Abstract and emphatically nontraditional as her paintings are, however, Anicée takes to grisaille as naturally as any traditional Asian painter¬¬ although in her recent work, like the French painter Yves Klein, she chooses to work primarily in blue rather than black.

Even more germane to the relationships we are are noting here is the linear thrust of her work, which reminds us that along with painting and poetry, calligraphy is one of “the three perfections” merged in Asian art. Anicée's line is possessed of a sinuous grace rarely encountered in contemporary Western painting and her use of white space in her compositions lends them a similar sense of spaciousness to that which we see in Asian landscape scrolls, with their vistas of "mountains and rivers without end," to borrow the Zen-influenced American poet Gary Snyder's felicitous phrase.

That said, there are no readily discernible mountains or rivers in Anicée's paintings, nor any other obvious attempts to delineate recognizable aspects of landscape. Her compositions are completely abstract, capturing the inner spirit of nature rather than its outward appearance with graceful, rhythmic networks of lines and marks that flow and merge with a freedom akin to Henri Michaux's mescaline drawings; yet that Anicée's compositions are obviously informed by a more sober and refined sensibility is indicated by her frequent use of a grid as a formal armature for her linear explorations. And while her paintings, which often have enigmatic titles such as "The Strength of Vacuum" and “Etude 6: Far From Near,” suggest at least a passing awareness of Zen philosophy, that Anicée has apparently arrived at such relationships on her own makes her work all the more remarkable.

Image Credits: Etude 1: The Sense of Gravity Mixed Media on Canvas, 65" x 64"

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