January 14, 2009

Drew Shiflett: The raw transformative power of obsession

Tonight at Lesley Heller Gallery, Drew Shiflett spoke cogently about her new drawings. Without supplying a fashionably overwrought interpretation of meaning, symbolism or metaphor, Shiflett addressed her frankly obsessive process. She told the standing-room only crowd that time slows down to a manageable pace when she focuses on drawing the thousands of tiny, rapidographed, stitch-like lines in each piece. In an essay for a 2004 solo show at the Islip Museum, curator Janet Goleas suggested that Shiflett's approach to her abstract, eccentrically-shaped drawings requires the fixed idea of meditation and a seemingly infinite dilated vision. "Often she creates mythical worlds or interior architectures of vast horizontality-- wheat fields, horizon lines, seascapes. Shiflett has talked about the influence the written word has had on her apprehension of structure. She is awed by the sheer deftness required to transport a reader from the beginning to the end of a novel, to convey the deeply transformative power of the written word and of the patience and craftsmanship needed to create an environment which can sustain large ideas. In contrast, Shiflett apportions her focus, leaving behind the greater narrative and honing in on phraseology or vignettes. As if excised from an immense field of vision, the rectangular segments in her drawings are like ghosts which have been spirited away from a larger whole. The artist weaves a delicate grid of fragile, tremulous pencil lines which barely graze the paper surface. Subtle, rhythmic and meditative, the lines coalesce into transparent scrims of soft organic geometry -- fetishistic, eccentric and diffuse. These elemental structures, founded on ambiguity and the raw transformative power of obsession, are anchored tentatively at the far reaches of the picture plane where they cleave to its outer margins. Here they lay claim to a geography which is parenthetical, a place reserved for note taking and the residues of subject matter. But like slow moving glaciers these intricate fragments have come to restlessly brake at the paper’s edge as if gradually sliding through the stories of their own Ice Age."

"Drew Shiflett," Lesley Heller Gallery, New York, NY. Through January 31.

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