Explorations – Works on Paper

Explorations—Works on Paper
Heather Neilson, artist
The Gallery
Northwestern Connecticut Community College
November 8 – December 8, 2016

by Priscilla Newcomb, MS
November 18, 2016


In The Gallery at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, Heather Neilson presents Explorations—Works on Paper: more than twenty abstract mixed media pieces on paper. Through use of acrylics, gesso, charcoal, oil stick, ink, crayon and collage papers, she has created individual pieces, each complete on their own, that also stand together as a unified body of work which is integrated, exciting and vibrant. The preponderance of black-grays-white pallet is accented with yellow/gold, blue and red/pink. Whether large or small, each piece feels like a spontaneous direct communication with the viewer.

Her approach to the blank canvas is akin to mindfulness meditation. As she says in her artist’s statement, her “inspiration comes through an unforced seeing and awareness.” She addresses each individual creation with “beginner’s mind, to let the piece unfold as it must.” Consistent with the sense of presence and immediacy of her creations, Ms. Neilson uses T-pins to tack each piece to the wall, rather than formally mounting and framing them. For these particular works of art, glass and frame would distance them from the viewer.

In Ms. Neilson’s artist’s statement, she further says her art is “an expression of personal experience and recalled memory through….buried visual language.” Her work unfolds with broad acrylic brush strokes and layered swaths of shades and color, plus impulsive lines and dashes of crayon, ink and oil stick. While some of these lines are layers on the paper, others incise the paint with powerful intentionality. The combination of line, layers and shadows creates a sense of three dimensions on the two dimensional paper.

The lines, dashes and other definitive marks have the flow of script or printed words, and yet they are not text, even as they are beautifully contextual; they are reminiscent of asemic writing. Also compatible with her “buried visual language” experience, the pieces in this show are not titled. By avoiding words and interpretation, Ms. Neilson presents her work to speak for itself. Instead of using conventional language to tell viewers how to think about the pieces, the viewers are invited to be present to have visceral emotional experiences.

Ms. Neilson remarks that “art making demands a certain kind of surrendering and a willingness to let be.” The viewers’ experience in the gallery is augmented if they, too, surrender conceptual thought and allow themselves to be open and present with Ms. Neilson’s art. This achieved, the joy for both creator and receiver are exponentially enhanced.