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Wil Aballe Art Projects May 2022

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On Puff

by Hannah Acton

To begin a painting, you must first stretch fabric around a frame. This proto-step is the one that the painting is most interested in concealing. Traditionally, layers of gesso are applied until the weave of the taught cloth is no longer visible, and the fabric foundation of the painting is forgotten on behalf of the more illusory potential of the framed plane. 


The paintings in this show are made of fabrics that have been covered with absorbent ink – when stretched, you can see the weave, and you can’t mistake the cloth. Unusual also, these paintings have another layer of fabric applied on top of their stretched foundation. This doubling allows for the creation of volume: it means that they can be puffed. 


The game of painting is not unlike the game of dwelling indoors. Both games interface with the unbound potential for worlds that are bound within four, or four-cubed, corners. Within these rooms, or frames, lie the many different ways one can be contained or held, depending in-part on the available materials. 


Creating volume by putting two layers of fabric together creates the possibility of a flexible container within the outlying rigid one. This type of container invites certain forms, and certain behaviours, different from what the planar, rectangular one might. 


The forms in these paintings are line drawings articulated through colour, contour, and stitching. They inhabit the frame, albeit while growing off of the painting’s flat plane. These interdimensional figures maintain a bodily order – not an anatomical body, but not unreasonable as organic subjects. Still, they could be letters, or lines. They fold into their frames, demonstrating different models of inhabitation. Their complexities suggest the myriad of ways a figure might inhabit a container, and also, how one plane might inhabit another. 


The membranes between the figures and their environments are absorbative, and in the foreground/background reverb of these images we rely on the puffing to help us recognize them; if they weren’t puffed, they would exist less. We can consider why they have appeared in a medium that aligns itself with upholstery: let’s take comfortable furniture seriously, as the necessary equipment for unpurposed behaviour, thought, reverie, nonmembership, illness, or just being inside. 


There was once a fish that had changed enough formally it was able to leave the water. The fish’s fins had sturdy interior bones that allowed it to prop itself up in shallow water and mobilize against the ground. When the fish realised this potential and left the water it became a primordial foundation in the evolution of tetrapods. What does it mean to hold interdimensional potential, the way this fish did? 


There are certain possibilities that will only emerge if they are met with the suitable container. Evolution between dimensions will only occur at the interface between the inside and the outside of what contains us. 


One puff, and you’re out there


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