Right Angle: Melanie Pankau
April 10, 2014
“Working with nonobjective forms allows viewers to experience a unique meditative response that cannot otherwise be felt with a representational depiction,” says abstract artist Melanie Pankau. “It is something we can feel but cannot describe.” Acknowledging that understanding abstract art can sometimes be a challenge, Pankau shared a peek into her creative process at a recent show by tracking the development of a suite of paintings—illustrating her search for balanced color with a display of palette records, compilation drawings and extensive notations hung alongside finished pieces. “By exhibiting the process a viewer gets to see the layers involved in the production of a single painting,” says the Chicago-based artist, whose work can be seen locally at the McCormick Gallery. Asked what inspires her complex compositions and she responds with one word. “Light. I start my day observing the morning light and I often stop working to watch it fade in the evening,” she says. “I try to memorize the colors and the subtle transitions that I see and many times they make their way into my paintings.”
LX: What emotional outlets does your work provide?
MP: The objective with my work is to slow the viewer down. My paintings require a different kind of viewing; it’s not instantaneous or quick. The longer you spend with one the more it reveals.
LX: Greatest influences:
MP: Olafur Eliasson, Tomma Abts and James Turrell. All three artists have expanded my thinking on the ideas of color, process and light.
LX: Keep an eye on:
MP: Chicago furniture maker Aaron Pahmier. His work is simple, sustainable and carefully designed. I especially love his dovetailed tables.
LX: My work is...
MP: Hard-edge, geometric abstraction and perceptually focused.
LX: Eames or Mackintosh?
MP: Ray Eames. Without her artistic direction and innovation, the Eames dynasty would have never existed.