(NEW YORK, NY)—Open now through October 21, 2023 at Massey Klein Gallery, Bethany Czarnecki’s solo exhibition of paintings, A memory, eternal, is personal, sensorial, and boldly feminine.
We recently sat down with Czarnecki to learn more about her solo exhibition, her approach to art making, and her journey as a self-taught painter.
Can you talk about the meaning behind the title of your exhibition, A Memory, eternal?
Czarnecki: The nine paintings in this show were made over the course of ten months. I approached each painting as its own entity, its own story. Once all the work was complete, I sat with it for a bit of time, recalling the inspiration for each painting and how each painting fit into my own sensory experiences.
As I reflected on that notion, I thought about fleeting moments in time, experiences, relationships—and how these memories are touchstones for the human experience… how paintings and art can serve as a tangible landmark for memories. The exhibition title, A Memory, eternal, reflects on the inspirational source of each painting; but in the end, those interactions are fleeting. The memories are what we cling to as we journey through life. The paintings serve as a tangible token of memories that grant a physicality to the emotions or thoughts I experienced while making them.
You’ve stated that you often conjure a “sense of place” in your work. Why do you think that is?
Czarnecki: There is an essence to abstract paintings that I feel allows me to connect with the work in a very unfiltered way. My paintings are not pre-planned. The idea of coming to the studio daily feeling fresh…allows me to get lost in the atmospheres I paint. Abstraction allows me to indirectly tell the viewer something about myself. I appreciate how it forces interpretation and vision. I paint worlds that I enjoy getting lost in, and it is my intention that these paintings invite the viewer to do the same. With the use of light, shadow, shape and color, I transport the viewer throughout the painting so that, at times, they feel physically within the work, above or below. Some of the compositions have a voyeuristic feel and others have a more direct placement. I yearn to create multi-sensory experiences within a two-dimensional plane.
While your work is abstract, would you say that it has a feminine energy?
Czarnecki: My paintings are mystical and inherently feminine. There are natural references to birthing, wombs, and the female body. My source material is authentic to me as a person—I paint what I know. I start each painting viscerally, and as the layers of paint accumulate, a world unfolds…I move the viewer physically through the work using line and color which provides a sensory experience…I create optical effects where colors and shapes overlap so the viewer is forced to explore the crevices and folds—these shapes and veils are pointedly feminine.
Some of my work references the figure and others are a nod to Mother Nature. I find the indirectness of the paintings to be powerful. It allows for a relationship to unfold between me and the painting.
Tell us about your journey as a painter.
Czarnecki: Painting found me. Nearly, eight years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, I had an overwhelming urge to paint. It was such a distinct feeling, but very disruptive at the same time. After my son was born, this urge intensified to a point where I was painting most days and nights. I carved out time to devote to painting and spent the following few years finding my voice. I did not have a direct subject matter, but I related to color and line, so I focused on compositions that embodied a crispness of color and a meticulous canvas where you can still feel my hand. It was an exploratory process with oil paint, I learned through trial and error and the desire to push the medium in a way that I resonated with it.
Can you talk about your art practice?
Czarnecki: Painting has allowed me to refine sentiments and articulate thoughts in an authentic way… The sense of imagination and vagueness is what pushes me to discover new ways to create sensory experiences in a two-dimensional format.
I really appreciate the quiet of my studio, painting for hours and getting lost in the atmospheres I create on the canvas. My painting process is slow, forcing me to sit with my own thoughts. It is a meditative experience that evolved from the layering of paint – deliberate and controlled. The results from this are sensuous portal-like paintings that serve as surreal experiences, evoking a subconscious understanding and placement of space.
How do the works in this solo exhibition reflect your current evolution as a painter?
Czarnecki: With the paintings for this show, I’ve embraced the presence of my hand through gestural marks and explored new techniques, perspectives, and textures. Some works have references to the figure that are more direct than any of my prior compositions. There is an element of vulnerability with this collection of paintings. The slips of the brush and small moments when colors merge and various layers underneath show through the veils.
Refracted Rose (2023) would be a painting that comes to mind as a slight departure. For me, painting is about taking chances, and there were a few elements within that painting and the body of paintings where I leapt a bit… I pushed the use of shadow and light in these new paintings—divine, synthetic, and natural light—and explored how to use light to incite emotion.
Czarnecki is also currently part of a two-person show with Jeremy Lawson called Shades of Abstraction at F2T Gallery in Milan and is preparing for a solo show in Sweden this spring.
A memory, eternal will be on view through October 21, 2023 at Massey Klein Gallery, 124 Forsyth Street, New York, NY