NY Arts Magazine Art Review: Sky Pape “Silver Lining”

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Review of “Silver Lining,” solo exhibition at June Kelly Gallery
by Carl E. Hazlewood, NY Arts Magazine, 2001

I go out of the darkness
onto a road of darkness
lit only by the far off moon
on the edge of the mountains.

Izumi Shikibu (a Japanese woman of the Heian Court)

In reproduction Sky Pape’s work on paper looks like brushed steel—silvery, with barely gestural strokes that track the movements of the hand in almost meditative arcing sweeps around and within the contours of an implied tondo. In actuality the images are revealed to be made of something rather less intractable. Instead of the impermeable resistance of metal, these are actually drawings on board. But they don’t yield the lightness of touch one expects from an average sketch, and they are not preparatory—rather, they are conceived as independent projects. Marks are made with a hard graphite pencil that is firmly impressed into the ground. Lines bunch tightly together and totally cover the surface in parallel directional configurations which yield a variety of abstract images. These works result from careful deliberation—in practical terms as well as in a metaphysical sense. Pared-down and refined to a glistening mineral luster, Pape’s tondo shapes have learned something from minimalism, while shedding that movement’s overbearing machismo for something more inflected, an interiority closer to the reductiveness of poetry. It becomes a visual haiku where one seeks to rescue a fleeting expressive image revealed from within a dimension of pervading darkness. “And from the/ceiling/darkness bends/a heavy flame.” (“The Cold Room” by Yvor Winters). Planes curve, shift and change as darkness pushes back the light which falls glimmering off the resistant surfaces. And for a moment the flat graphite circles become holes inviting entrance. But it is only an illusion. Like her large, equally reticent, but quietly expressive work using tightly packed leaves of kozo paper briefly touched at the edges by sumi ink, the new graphite “Silver Lining” drawings refer to Eastern aesthetics for its inspiration. The organic processes of nature and science are also sources of inspiration (think of Leonardo’s drawing studies showing the way water moves in a storm). Sky Pape, is a native of Toronto, Canada, who lives and works in New York City.