Saturated colors curl into each other, fresh blood and cobalt, kryptonite green and gerbera daisy golden yellow. The impact of such primary hues on a single canvas registers associations with joy, then horror sinks in. What appears to be the large face of a magnolia is being devoured and invaded by the surrounding swirl of colors. In this piece, “Contagion” by Laurel Holloman, the curdling, red shape appears to be bleeding out of the flower’s center. The warm balance of golden yellow and purple in each petal are slowly taken over by red veins.
“There is the threat of violence,” says Holloman of the paintings in her recently opened show, Everglow, at Museum Jan van der Togt in Amsteleveen, Netherlands. Holloman’s travels, exploring nature and photographing animals from Big Sur, California to snowshoeing in Aspen, informed her perspective on the state of natural affairs. “I wanted to explore seasons that were out of order, and a feeling that something so innocent is unaware of the destruction around it.” The deer, and the other featured pelican and seal, are creatures she met along the way, witnessing environments that become stranger each year.
Holloman’s acclaim came from her large, meditative works, often focused on inner landscapes. This theme wove into both the abstracts paintings and the faces in her realistic portraits. The Fifth Element, Holloman’s 2014 series, explored the intersection between science and nature, but “Everglow is a more developed journey in that it goes deeper into the harm humans can do to the earth and the creatures in it.”
“I feel my earlier work is my attempt to find an escape from a chaotic world,” says Holloman. All the world Inside (2013) was dominated by cooler colors (one prominent red piece was a deep merlot), and The Fifth Element featured primary colors softened to the texture of the Northern Lights. “I was more interested in creating chaos for this show, because it was the only way to tell the story I wanted to tell.” Influenced by Adrien Ghenie’s intersection of classical realism and distortion, and Herbert Brandl’s expressive landscapes, Holloman marries the realistic threat of a disrupted environment and the distance that innocence allows. “I wanted to make each piece a bit of a fairy tale in which there are both innocence and violence.”
Finding this balance was a challenge. It took nearly six months for Holloman “to balance the innocence and the violence and keep my style from before.” She can now see the thread between 2013’s “Swell,” an oceanic abstract, and the images in Everglow. “Swell” diverted from her other large works. Its power didn’t come from a sense of presence and majesty, but from the depiction of a dark ocean void and the motion of curling waves. “Silent Spring” and “Light in August” feature a serene, and realistically styled, deer amidst an abstraction of violent colors. There is a section that feels like a dark void where each color is born. It is, “a world where the season was out of order and I wanted a feeling that [the deer’s] world could get sucked away at any moment.” The dark shape of looms behind the unaware creature and is poised to overtake the disordered environment.
Capricious & Elegance
A different mood characterizes a series of acrylic floral portraits in Everglow, a progression that feels like one flower opening up. The much anticipated beauty of an opening flower is carefully looked after, not left to be ravaged like the natural elements in other works in the show. This “raw beauty of foliage” is drenched in feminine hues (bold lipstick and petal pink) and “screams ‘woman’ or ‘life’” to the artist. “Capricious,” who’s reference image Holloman photographed so closely that it became abstract, channels “the sensuality in the painting.” She says that these counterparts to “Contagion” are “meant to feel and look at what we can ruin so easily if we are not careful.” Holloman took the creation of this show as an opportunity to “push the envelope on style,” both contrasting her shows from the past, as well as pieces within the Everglow themselves. “It is the first rule that I decided to break so that I could grow as an artist,” she says. The stylistic progression of the show is akin to storytelling, the final chapter of which is a series of backlit LED paintings “symbolic of global warming,” meant to “achieve sort of a celestial feel to the finished installation.”
Suspended Animation & The Butterfly Effect
Holloman’s reverence for nature and attention paid to the environment comes from her parents who valued being outdoors. “I feel more balanced in nature. Hiking or camping is something I have done since I was a little girl.” While she envisions herself leaving Los Angeles someday, she does “live near the beach and that keeps me sane for now.”
Everglow – Laurel Holloman
Museum Jan van der Togt