Transformation in the Work of Antonia Covarrubias

By John Austin

Occasionally you will run into that rare artist who both captivates the mind and heart with his or her work. That artist is surely Antonia Covarrubias. In all of her artistic endeavors what is made crystal-clear is that this artist is produc¬ing art which, while drawn out of private experience, reaches out in universal terms to touch everyone on different levels. Perhaps the most impressive quality that emerges out of each work is its lyrical drive, which forms a visual choreography of parts related to wholes as well as voids as well as of subtle, nuanced coloristic tonalities connect¬ed in vitalistic ways to compositional shapes.
The compelling drama of energized suspension pervades all of Antonia Covarrubias’ artistic work. This measured sense of anticipation seems to arise spontaneously and naturally out of working process. This working style, so geared to the flows and ebbs of creative energies has been honed over time in order to exploit certain factors and conditions. Covarrubias’ methodology favors the random, the elusive and chance occurrence working hand-in-hand with conscious deliberation.
Much of the artist’s process-oriented work has a constructed look but it is a construction that seems tentative, filled with contingency. This process gracefully brings home the point that the universe, while seemingly stilled is yet unpredictable at its core, ready to change and alter its state of being from one moment to the next. In effect, the artist is deeply immersed in delineating for us, the viewers, what she perceives as an elemental condition of life, which finds its equilibrium through an interior force of counter-harmonies. The delicate compositional balance that pervades each piece suggests, then, a momentary state of quiet and stillness within flux. This suggestion of a tem¬porary surcease from the strains of life while poetically filled with intimations of voids and silenced energies allows the artist, nevertheless, to communicate a flurry of tensions and of struggle in her work.
Lingering in its position it offers us a visual analogy of being psychically suspended between heaven and earth, hovering between oppositions and between differences, and thrust into what Martin Heidegger termed the «pure serenification» of the mystery of creation. In one passage, the philosopher Konrad Fiedler wrote: «The painter is not a person who sees in a more naturalistic, more poetic or more ecstatic more than other people. He is rather a person who also sees further with the hand, there where the eye gives out.»
In looking closely at Antonia Covarrubias’ work we are indeed swayed by the mysterious rightness of her coloration which animates her planes, each variously sized oil and pigment paintings on canvas. But what gives us pause, what stops the eye and makes it marvel at the hand of the artist is her capacity to find that Archimedian point, act¬ing as perceptual lever, which upends visual expectations. I am persuaded that the artist’s primary gift is her seem¬ingly effortless capacity to allow the eye and mind to oscillate between their recognition of a world materialized and then, magically, de-materialized.
Antonia Covarrubias’ art might profitably be considered a set of mirrors (imagination and reality) facing each other, which in-between themselves make a habitable world out of their blending reflections. The artist’s speaks eloquent¬ly and passionately through her delicate nuances in her work of the self’s journeys undertaken to arrive at a condi¬tion of centeredness. Her synthesis of oppositions lies at the core of her revelatory artistic practice.

John Austin is an art writer working in Manhattan.

John Austin