Rose-Marie Kossowan : Synesthesia
British Columbia has been good to Exhibeo Art Magazine. Two of my better interviews have been with artists from the Canadian province with the big mountains that tumble into the Pacific Ocean. I first encountered Rose-Marie Kossowan’s work just over a year and a half ago. I was impressed with her rigorous three pronged work program: landscapes, botanicals and abstracts. So the merry go round portfolio went. Went I jumped on the ride back in 2014, the work was gathering a cyclonic momentum as each facet of her work was increasingly being carried over one into the other. That momentum has only increased in the last year. It’s clearly been an exciting and productive year for Rose-Marie.
It has often been said that a good artist is a busy artist. No matter how talented one is at the start (and Rose-Marie was already very much on top of her game when I first encountered her work), putting in the studio hours has yielded amazing breakthroughs. The more one paints, the better one gets. It’s that simple. If you doubt this, go and study Rose-Marie’s output over the last few years. You will see that talent has no ceiling. You can always surpass yourself. You can always improve.
Every time I look at Rose-Marie’s pictures, I’m struck by how each one manages to carve out its own justification for existing in the world. When you visit her website, there is no superfluous work on display. Each painting lives on its own merit. Whether you’re approaching the work from a purely aesthetic place or a more existential one, you can’t help but say to yourself (and this for each painting contributing to the portfolio): “I’ve been enriched by this. The world is more beautiful with this painting in it.”
What can be learned from Rose-Marie’s carry over between the landscapes and botanicals to the fully non representational abstracts?
Entirely relevant to this review, I’ve noted that abstract artists who explore more representational forms of art make better abstract artists. What I mean by this is that painting some pieces working from nature helps the purely abstract paintings in many ways. On a purely aesthetic level, a deeper understanding of the patterns and proportions of the natural world does wonders for an abstract composition. On a philosophical plain, it is worth considering this observation from John Ruskin: all the things an artist may wish to convey – affection, discord, harmony, sensuality, fretfulness, quiet, noise, strength, feebleness, pliability, firmness, luxury, purity, pride, modesty, restlessness, repose (to name just a few of those things) – can be observed in the natural world in some shape or form. And they can be illustrated – loosely or with mathematical exactness – by conditions of line and form.
Acquiring the motor mechanical skill to replicate those shapes and forms by way of line, volume, tonality and color (or the lack thereof) can only benefit the artist whose ultimate goal is to take what has been learned from the natural world and abstract all that into the realm of “pure thought”, or “Platonic forms” or whatever.
You can see this transference at work in Kossowan’s output. Her plein air pansies, highly stylized Irises, or the volume and tonal values of her landscapes – pieces like Maples at Cultus Lake or View from Mount Frosty Trail – lay the necessary ground work for the sculptural effects of the abstracted compositions Bouquet and Sunshine (Both of which are abstracted paintings of things observable in nature).
No matter how internalized Rose-Marie’s abstracts get (I’m thinking here of pieces like Introspection, Lost in the Translation of Reflection, or In Cahoots), the departure point of all her art is rooted in a heightened sensual response to the world.
In all of Kossowan’s paintings, that sensual response is chemically bonded to emotional states. In this, her paintings are an elegant record of how we function as a species: stimuli – including spontaneous thoughts and/or mental states unprompted from a source outside the mind – provoke sensual responses which are intimately linked with emotional responses. Higher thought (for instance, applying reason, logic or reflection to the equation) only repeats the equation with a few added variables. In other words, reason and logic usually only prop up what has already been processed on a more instinctive level. It takes a whole lot of willpower for reason to transcend emotion.
Be that as it may, there is a cerebral component to Rose-Marie’s work. You’ll find that in her manipulation of color, form, tonal values and all other matters pertaining to handling the paint. But all of that is put to work to convey her visceral, sensual response to either tangible things or (interestingly enough) emotional states. In Kossowan’s portfolio you’ll find a painting like Pansy Frenzy that celebrates a sensual response to a specific thing that obviously brings her great pleasure, or a different but equally visceral kind of painting like Altruism that seeks to relate a complex emotional state in a visual manner.
Either way, we’re interacting with paintings that (to paraphrase Gombrich) convey both the facts and the emotive tones of an experience. In Kossowan’s work, the paint functions as a transmodal sensual integrator. It suggests smells, taste, touch and sounds. The formal term for this splashing over of impressions from one sense modality to another is called “Synesthesia”.
Viewed as a whole, Rose-Marie Kossowan’s paintings take synesthesia on a wild ride from the external world of velvety flowers, howling mountain tops and farm fields that smell of loamy dirt to an internal world where thoughts hover over Mount Carmel’s of the mind.
You can leave Kansas and ride a tornado to this place by visiting her brand new website: http://www.rosemariekossowan.ca