Holly Coulis: Up in the Air

26 August - 8 September 2020

Philip Martin Gallery is delighted to present an on-line exhibition of gouache-on-paper paintings by Holly Coulis. Paintings-on-paper are focal point for Coulis. This is the first show zeroing in on them as a primary aspect of her practice. The exhibition, “Up in the Air," presents the works in context with two new oil-on-linen pieces, "Vases and Citrus, Above" (2020), and "Still Life, Above" (2020).

Intricate paintings-on-paper are a major component of Holly Coulis's work. The appearance of these works is a bit different from her oil paintings, which are completed on a very smooth, highly-sanded linen surface. Holly Coulis's gouache-on-paper pieces engage the rough paper surface on which she works. Contrasting lines applied with dry-brush play against vivid blocks of solid color applied with wet brush. While the dry brush reveals the grain of the paper, the wet brush settles the paint into the grain of the paper in rich solid areas. Describing her gouache-on-paper works, and in particular the experience of making her larger paintings, "I'm up close to them,” Coulis notes, "and so what is interesting me is what is happening on a - not micro - but less macro - level. How the paint is going down. In a sense, my experience is abstract. Maybe all painters would say that. But because that interests me, I had an impulse to make that more noticeable for people looking at them as well.” 

The objects in Coulis's paintings and the planes on which they sit have started to morph in Coulis’s work over the course of the last few years. She comments, "The work is getting more abstract, which initially wasn't something intentional. When I first started making these still life paintings, I never intended to push them into abstraction, it just slowly started to happen. Now, in the next body of work, I am starting to become most interested in the abstract elements, how the lines intersect and weave and the places that open up for color. Sometimes I even want to eliminate all recognizable form! I'm not in any rush to do that, but there is part of me to see what would happen if they became completely abstracted.” "You can sense that something else might happen,” she says. "I create the language and then it feeds on itself. A number of possibilities open up a few directions (or not) and you have to just follow along. If you're a scientist, there's no end. There's no answer. You find an answer, and then you find another problem.” 

Compositionally, "It is less about things sitting on a table...There's no gravity in the drawings, so why does the orange have to sit on the table? It is very easy to move the orange up. Then the orange feels like a celestial object, or a sun, or magic, or a juggling act. It also became a much more interesting game of geometry for me when that started happening. How can I fit these shapes together? What shapes are created when they overlap?” Or in terms of paintings like, "Vases and Citrus, Above" (2020), Coulis suggests, “It felt exciting for me because the vessels - the vases - have been all been sort of straight on. It was very exciting to me to see these still lives floating above as if they are in a universe of their own." 

Holly Coulis (b. 1968, Toronto, Canada) received her BFA from Ontario College of Art and Design (Toronto, Canada) in 1995 and her MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA) in 1998. She has had recent solo and group exhibitions at Philip Martin Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery (New York, NY); Cooper Cole (Toronto, Canada); University of Georgia (Athens, GA); Atlanta Contemporary (Atlanta, GA); Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Boston, MA); Sardine (Brooklyn, NY); Paramó (Guadalajara, Mexico); El Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (Oaxaca, Mexico); Galleria d'Art Moderna (Milan, Italy);The Bruce High Quality Foundation (New York, NY); and Leo Koenig (New York, NY. Her work has been reviewed in publications such as Artforum, Art in America, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Flaunt Magazine, Hyperallergic, and FT Magazine. Coulis lives and works in Athens, GA.