Paolo Colombo’s deeply lyrical watercolours and Kiki Smith’s mythically charged metal sculptures draw inspiration from the natural world. These works also arise from a fascination with process, fusing a clarity of form with the particularities of texture, gesture, and tone. Both artists display a commitment to the potential of work by hand that coalesces like a flash of insight, lucid and enigmatic. Both artists invite us to think in layers, through the palimpsests of material and the condensations of action. The animals in Colombo’s and Smith’s art—monkeys, birds, hares, deer—embody and recognise our own instincts with uncanny precision.
Kiki Smith’s small scale silver, aluminium or bronze sculpture reveal themselves slowly: shifting as we encounter them. These elemental creatures refuse fixed meaning: a bird with a worm could be a symbol for freedom, discipline, vulnerability, or the culmination of a spiritual journey. Each piece emerges from and contains a multitude of transmuting stories. These animals are in a moment of movement—hunting, mating, flying—and strike us with their urgency and grace. Smith gives keen attention to the peculiarities and habits of bodies. Her sculptures ask us to go over them again and again, reconfiguring our relationship to what they represent.
Paolo Colombo’s paintings open inward through levels of different texture. At times, over a wash with dense and translucent variations in pigment, we find a gauze-like layer painted by regularly repeated lines gives way through what appears as organic or geometric openings into an inner layer, containing white space, petals, or black and white checkerboards.
In his figurative work, as if embroidered on swaths of fabric we see a recognisable shape: a monkey holding a stone, a hand in an instant of restful touch. These appear like thoughts, personal and enigmatic. Tears in the soft patterns, as if in organdie, draw our attention through the field of lines conjured by slow, extended labour into the feeling of a moment. We see a monkey looking back at us. We see a hand touching one of 36,000 tassels, painted one-by-one. Paintings like these bring us into a world of vigilance, hypnotically focused, evoking touch and instinct, labour and care.
Andrea Applebee – author, poet and editor based in Athens, Greece.