New York

Francisca Sutil

Full of subtly graded, ingeniously correlated color contrasts, Francisca Sutil’s paintings capture the process of altering consciousness, crystallizing it in color. She fuses the Supremacist square and the Color Field to create an effect of inward sublimity, to represent the ungraspability of interior life. She takes modes of art-making that have not only become clichés but have lost their power amidst the ironies of post-Modernism, and suggests that they can still be used to create an effect of an authentic, unique self.

Sutil’s paintings bear the overall title “Voices of Silence.” Harold Rosenberg once wrote that there are two ways of achieving silence, either by “silencing the existing rhetoric” or by giving the emptiness that exists in its wake an ironic twist. Both approaches are, in fact, ironic, masking anxiety about language, especially the loud, insistent, entrenched language of tradition—both are ways out of the depressing impasse such language produces, which, ironically, simultaneously reify it. But there is also a primary rather than a reactive silence, one that is a form of self-love rather than a desperate aggression against the existing order of language. This silence uses that discourse to its own advantage rather than trying to outsmart it. It is the silence of self-communion that D. W. Winnicottlikens to “the mystic’s withdrawal into a personal inner world of sophisticated introjects . . . a loss of contact with the world of shared reality [for] a gain in terms of feeling real.” Sutil’s paintings are symbols of self-communion in this sense. Viewing their delicate yet intransigent surfaces, we are convinced of the reality of the interior process, especially the process of resolving conflict.

For most of Sutil’s paintings embody conflict: opposites exist in a secret symbisis while maintaining their separateness. In Voices of Silence #12, 1991, a gray-black square is secretly married to a blue-white one, as the subliminal—and not so sublinal—traces of gray-black in the second square suggest. They share a common vertical textural flow and geometry, hinting at a shared organic as well as transcendental origin, yet they maintain their difference. This tension between overt difference and covert sameness marks the ambivalence of the process of individuation this pair evokes. In Voices of Silence #17, 1992, the same yellow textural burst—a kind of implosion—constitutes both sides of the equation, but the red underlayer of one side has become the red overlayer of the other (or vice versa), establishing something like a hidden, mysterious umbilical connection.

Sutil is apparently inspired by the light and the parched space of the Atacama Desert of her native Chile, but the illumination she articulates goes beyond representing the natural: it is the perverse light generated by the friction of inner process.

Donald Kuspit