Essay by Jill Moniz, PhD: “Lisa Bartleson’s art practice is comprised of unconventional, yet human approaches to concepts that require balance. She weighs materiality through scientific study and emotion; she considers articulations of interior and exterior, loss and fulfillment, experience and memory in the same space; and delves into light and darkness both conceptually and physically on the canvas.
In her second solo exhibition at FP Contemporary, Lisa Bartleson’s Felt Before Seen is looking within. She has shifted from her historic log rhythmic dedication to perfection of the exterior in the vein of the Light and Space movement’s finish fetish, to a more freeing, emotional focus on interior painting and the object as a whole. In this new space, Bartleson brings the viewer into her consciousness, her concerns and her aesthetics that fuse light and pigment with feeling, narrative and form.
Continuing her investigation of the feminine, Bartleson pays particular attention to shape and volume in Felt Before Seen with large, provocative circular paintings in muted, natural hues creates a sensory and sensual experience. She eschews her calculated scientific approach of measurement and structure for a freer painterly focus on the canvas where the stories she wants to tell are integrated in the compositions.
Bartleson offers a new entryway into themes and compositions using classical techniques of painting on folded linen. The peaks and valleys created with this method feel vital, vibrant and kinetic. In addition, she seamlessly merges traditional practice with the industrial, contemporary materiality of pigmented resin. This painterly, multilayered approach to color is magnified by the undulating linen, highlighting the sensuousness of the material and providing emotional, spatial and aesthetic depth.
In addition to evolving and refining her use of the circle, Bartleson employs light in new ways. She explores and challenges the perceptions of the form’s interior by magnifying the light around it, creating an oculus that acts as guide, metaphor and a radically contemporary chiaroscuro technique. For Bartleson, the emptiness at the center of the work is a void that can and should be entered. The oculus is both a lens into the interior and a measure of light and gradation of color. Bartleson’s interests lie in the mysterious, opaque interior, that which in not seen but felt. She transforms the absence of solidity by highlighting the darkness of the center which emphasizes the radiant and translucent light and form rippling from it, so that we see the depth but not the void.
Felt Before Seen offers a pathway to contemplate our humanity. From this gateway both the depth of the painting and the viewer’s personhood are extended so that the viewer becomes another dimension of the work. This simple experience of looking within mirrors the human condition- complex, layered experience in a simple form.
Always in tune with the ways that art connects to and reflects humanity, Bartleson uses her new work to measure the tension between classic and contemporary, industrial materials as an allegory to contemplate the resonance of instinct and emotion in a world overrun with stimuli. Bartleson extends this narrative through the oculus – the ancient eye – that she updates with her expert use of resin. In Pillar, the viewer experiences the continuum of antiquity through a poured resin three-dimensional sculpture with an exterior Bartleson fossilizes to bring light into the interior while reflecting the viewer’s personhood, humanity and experience with themselves and the object. The exterior plane mimics the rough surfaces of natural objects that force the viewer to find a way in, and result in a more intimate and active experience.
Every work in Felt Before Seen is a balance of ideology and material and contains the dimensionality for objecthood as well as engagement. Bartleson demands not agreement, but participation. She understands and relishes the space where we as humans and she as artist pursue perfection, but know we’ll never get there. She comforts our disappointment, however, by offering guides, entryways and windows into the soul of the world where light is felt before seen, contained and set wildly free at the same time”.
Born in 1968 in Seattle, WA, Bartleson currently resides in Northern California. She received a B.A. in Biology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greely, Colorado. Bartleson’s work is in many prominent public and private collections around the world, including the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA and Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples, Italy. Bartleson has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster, CA. Bartleson completed an artist residency at Art 1307 in Naples, Italy in 2013.