Kazimira Rachfal, As Here As (2006), oil on canvas, 5″ x 7″; courtesy Janet Kurnatowski Gallery
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Kazimira Rachfal’s paintings ask a difficult question: How much experience can be embodied within a distilled pictorial vocabulary, in bare-bones geometric structures and encompassing slurs of oil paint?
It’s not a new question: Twentieth century artists — the Russian Suprematist Kazimir Malevich, for instance, or the contemporary Swiss painter Helmut Federle — have pursued it with dogged persistence. Spiritual longings have often been a component of that goal, as has a stringent attention to pictorial form. Individuality, being what it is, can discover unexpected facets of a tradition. Rachfal’s extension of this one is profoundly considered and quietly ambitious.
Quiet because of the work’s unassuming tenor. Scale has something to do with it — Rachfal’s pictures are notably small in format — as does an aversion to flashy gestures. Moving with sober intent, her brush achieves a monumental presence and never stops questioning its own imperatives. The palette is muted and earthy; the light emanating from it silvery in tone and fraught with deep-seated emotions.
Rachfal is a slow painter. Her pictures require as much dedication and engagement on the part of the viewer as they did for the artist. The work isn’t easy or immediate; it asks for a lot. That’s the challenge of the paintings — and their pleasure. Whatever “meaning” ascribed to Rachfal’s art is less important than the encounter with it. We don’t have to name something in order to perceive its sincerity, depth and aesthetic worth. It’s enough that Rachfal provides it for our delectation.
Rachfal is incapable of taking an easy out in resolving her pictures; they’re hard-won and sure. Her “search” is embodied in the work’s layered and often scarred surfaces. Rachfal cites Balthus (she’s not beholden to abstract artists alone): His “quest, [as] a form of pilgrimage” provides an anchor and an inspiration. You sense that the characteristic of art-making Rachfal prizes most is integrity of process and image. Beauty is an integral component of that outcome. Rachfal traces her pursuit with palpable and welcome gravity.
© 2008 Mario Naves
Published on the occasion of an exhibition at Janet Kurnatowski Gallery.