Diaphanous colour, roughly handled, finds sensuous body and mystic force in the drawings, ceramics, paintings and words of Rachelle Sawatsky, Canadian by birth but denizen of Los Angeles by election. Huge sheets of paper get battered with bleach and sunlight, the flow of water and the unstruck force of colour puddling with gravity. The edges can tatter from their travails, but their texture is all the more beautiful for its distress. ‘When I think about painting, I think about liquidity,’ Sawatsky has said. ‘I’m more interested in mould and degradation than elegance or purity.’ The ravages of floods, the hot fluids of sultry couplings, the messiness of bodies and material and spirit commingling, the slippery lust even makes the drawings blush pastel, but that whisper of modesty hardly halts the odd turns and sudden demands.
When she fires ceramics, they slink and crack up white walls, their emanations of colour like the white cube caught a few glassy, chromatic love bumps. When she writes, her words have the same simple pulsing, searching energy, the same robust physicality and expansive soul. Her words struggle to plumb the mysteries in all their soft, wet darkness but remain corporeal, sunkissed and colourful, sometimes self-conscious but more often brave. In an essay for fellow artist Tiziana La Melia, Sawatsky describes the difficulty of putting it all into words:
‘It is abstract; it is figurative. It doesn’t really matter if you do one or the other at any one time. You just have to trust that there is a relationship between the two; you think it is related to risk. You trust beauty. Few people have written about it because few people have even seen it. Writing about it is a practice of experimental ethnography’.
Born in British Columbia, Rachelle Sawatsky lives and works in Los Angeles. Sawatsky’s varied output includes artist books, paintings, ceramics and works incorporating found materials, and has been the subject of recent solo shows at both the Finley and Harmony Murphy galleries in LA, and the Or Gallery in Berlin. Selected by Andrew Berardini, writer, Los Angeles.
This article was first published in the March 2015 issue.