Katy Dove at the DCA

By Janis Petzinger

I’m not used to contemporary art shows without textual guidance next to each piece. I stumble through, desperate for curatorial analysis, sheepishly looking to the attendants for questions. This is why I love places like the DCA – without any words next to the pieces in order to leave the space around them uncorrupted, art shows here often challenge me to shut up, look, and listen if I really want to “get it”.

Source: DCA

Source: DCA

But, “getting it” doesn’t seem to be the point of Katy Dove’s work, which is on until November 20th at the DCA. Consisting of paintings, prints, and animations, each filled with abstract shapes (usually made of consistent hues) her work is charged with motion, somehow unfolding and gathering at the same time. There is no answer – things here just proceed as the way opens.

Maybe this is all due to her use of automatic art making (using one’s subconscious to intuitively lead the artist). Her process begins with instinctual marking via drawing or watercolor, which leads her on the path to a steady composition. This is something Dove achieves well in particular: each piece conveys spontaneous creation, while still managing a sense of ownership of formal design. I had no problem taking her work seriously. In fact, Dove’s work makes me feel like I’ve been left in good hands – ones that want me to appreciate gentle color and the meaning behind harmonious movement. Each piece caresses the world around it.

It is not vast or reaching, nor does it demand our submission, which I think is a way artists often give their abstract paintings authority. With Dove, each piece rather narrates everything in the room. Like cells dividing, they reveal the metamorphic aspects of life, singing at once “there you go, and here I am” as each element becomes a part of the next one. This creates a certain rhythm to both the paintings and the animations, connecting them all together in a non-stop hum. I find that the sense of connectedness is actually the strongest part of her work; I didn’t leave smarter or inspired, like I so often do when I find pockets of wonder in abstract art. Instead I just left connected and moved to some greater beat, like the touching and shifting shapes in her show.

Source: Art Scotland

Source: Art Scotland

It feels bitter sweet knowing Dove passed young. This always affects the lens in which I see an artists’ work. I kept thinking that the morphing abstract forms in the animations could be an allegory for the growing cancer in her blood. Who knows (and who cares really) – I have the feeling Dove must have known her art is a microcosm of a world that exists way beyond the one within her.  

There is a lot of wonder to find in contemporary art. But in our analysis, I think we sometimes forget (or feel ashamed to admit) that there is something wonderfully comforting in the simplicity of shape and color, and sometimes that is more than enough. This is why Dove’s work is the type that always brings us back. 

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