Abstract painting can appear in many forms – as a visual phenomenon, perceptual conundrum, or personal testament. Victoria Lowe’s paintings encompass all of these modes, and go further to become deeply immersive experiences. In her work we are presented with fields of sprayed color that shift gradually or are inflected with directional lines. Applied in myriad layers, the spayed particles interact like pixels to create a spectrum of new, unnamable colors. These paintings deliver us into an indeterminate space that seems to expand, pulse, or glow.
In the earlier paintings, out of the atmospheres of color a covert geometry takes form – an overall grid, vertical or horizontal elements, and coronas of radiating hues. From a canvas’s sides or corners, small nodes of color arise, forming subliminal axes across the surface, and giving definition to the dominant field. All of this happens before our eyes so subtly that if we are not sure if what we are seeing is really there.
Lowe creates paintings free of specific imagery, and yet we find ourselves seeing in them a range of possibilities – sky, deep space, and the cosmos. Light is central to these works, as an animating presence that illuminates and colors their atmospheric expanses. The light in these works suggests a confluence of the natural and the spiritual in a unified field.
In the later paintings, line and form are inscribed in open space, creating a sense of physical action and implied movement. These are works composed of multiple panels and some are variable in their arrangement. They suggest linked sequences involving a contrail of sprayed color, a burst of energy, an aurora, a darkening sky. The effect is to slow us down even as we progress, to notice the incremental changes that transform everything that engages us. We are asked to witness impermanence as the only permanent state.
As in all of Lowe’s art, meaning does not exist independently of the sensual, and our experience of the work is poetic, taking us beyond language or process. In both the single and multiple panel works, their large scale gives us the opportunity to plunge into a place where knowing, in the ordinary sense, is not possible. In the vast space of these paintings, we are ultimately left with our own consciousness and with a feeling of unmoored freedom.
-from commentary by John Mendelsohn
Victoria Lowe was born in 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. She was focused on art from an early age, and always found ways to work on independent projects through her elementary and high school years. She entered the University of Alabama at seventeen and received her BS in education in 1969. As an undergraduate, Lowe felt like she “found a new home and family” in the art department.
Two professors became her mentors – Melville Price, who played an important role in the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, and Howard Goodson, who was instrumental in the style’s regional influence. Both revered Hans Hoffman as an artist and a teacher, patterning their classes after his method of eliciting creative expression from the students. Lowe was encouraged to find her own path as an artist, and this became a model for own teaching as a professor of art at Florida Southern College and Florida Polytechnic University.
In the art department, Lowe and her fellow students were exposed to new developments in art, including Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting. She cites artists who “inspired deep emotional responses” – Claude Monet, J.M.W. Turner, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhart, and Jules Olitski. James Turrell is a contemporary artist who is particularly important for Lowe, for his sensitive use of light. An important influence has been travel and the art and archeology of Mexico and ancient Egypt. Lowe has described her experience as a child of gazing through a telescope at the stars in the night sky, the sense of connectedness she felt, and how it continues to inspire her art. She cites her experience meditating, initiated in childhood, as giving her access to the inner space evoked in her paintings.
In graduate school at the University of Alabama, Lowe focused on painting, receiving her MA in Visual Arts in 1971. Spray painting emerged as her primary technique while still in school and after her move to Washington, DC, where she lived from the 1970s until 2006 when she moved to Lakeland, FL. In Washington she was a member of a performance group lead by Marta Minujiin that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art and in galleries in New York.
During the 1970s, Lowe produced the sprayed painting series, Ener-Area and Ener-Space, which focus on shifting, atmospheric fields inflected by colored coronas. The Ener-Section Series that followed features abstract gateways to pictorial space. In the 2000s, the artist has created drawings composed of lines and gestural elements, in pastel and graphite. In the Mind-Space Series, she has switched from enamel to acrylic and introduced lines and spheres moving across the surface. Sequences of smaller canvases or drawings together form a single work, extending Lowe’s explorations of energy and the emotive experience of color that she has pursued over the past four decades.
Lowe’s solo exhibitions include Florida Southern College, Lakeland, FL; The White House, Washington, DC; and Cramer Gallery, Washington, DC. Group exhibitions include the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, FL; Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL; and the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL..
Exhibition organized through Katharine T. Carter and Associates