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Sun Sook Kim’s Healing Art

By Mary Gregory

In some cases, it’s possible to look at a work of art with no knowledge or consideration of its creator. In fact, for many works that have come down to us through time, we never know who made them. In other cases, it’s impossible to separate the art from the life of the artist. The paintings and drawings of Sunsook Kim are completely intertwined with her experiences. Through her visual art, she draws a map to her own center.


Earthly Delights in Norristown – Emily Erb and Nakima Ollin at Pagus

November 29, 2011   ·   by Becky Hunter

I still feel a bit like the new girl in town: keen to explore the city and its surroundings, discover interesting art and meet new people. It was lovely, therefore, to find myself in West Philly artist Nakima Ollin’s car last Saturday, driving to see the two-person show Earthly Delights in the Norristown Arts Building. Pagus Gallery’s large, bright space and winding corridors were filled with two artists’ works: Ollin’s intricate paintings and drawings and Emily Erb’s large-scale, dyed silk works.

Emily Erb, Garden of Earthly Delights


Emily Erb, Garden of Earthly Delights, detail

Tyler School of Art grad Emily Erb’s complex dye-on-silk piece The Garden of Earthly Delights (2011) inspires the exhibition’s title. Spanning more than six by fourteen feet, the triptych compositionally shadows its early Netherlandish namesake by master painter Hieronymus Bosch. But contemporary themes are at play. Erb replaces Bosch’s mythical creation and damnation scenes with a humorous reversal of evolution in which apes and humans exchange roles.

Emily Erb, Native Languages of North America

Erb’s silk painting Native Languages of North America (2011) combines elements of skilled craft, meticulous research, and scrawled, anthropological diagramming. A dyed map of North America is carved up with gilt fabric pen lines and a colored key according to the languages once (and sometimes still) spoken in each area: Eskimo Aleut, Uto-Aztecan, and Zuni are just a few of them. It’s a powerful work of mourning for lost cultural diversity and, like the rest of her map pieces on display, pushes emotion and critical thinking into productive friction.

Nakima Ollin, I-95

Ollin’s small, tightly observed cityscapes and industrial still lifes strike color chords in a restrained palette of blues, peachy-pinks, and browns. Working primarily in hand-mixed egg tempera – a medium that demands fine attention to detail – Ollin’s surfaces are tactile mosaics of tiny, deeply felt marks.  I-95 traces the effects of light on rusted, interwoven refinery pipes against a dramatic Philadelphia sky.

Nakima Ollin, City 2


The looser oil on panel City 2 (2011) signals a new direction for Ollin. Oil paint’s flexibility allows her to extract and extend the abstract gestures that hover at the edges of her observational paintings. The effect is of luminous, liberated representation, recalling Brazilian, London-based painter Varda Caivano‘s equally modest works that merge figuration and abstraction. Caivano’s aim is to create “a bridge, a transitional space that evokes an inner world.” This deeper meaning in everyday objects and experiences is something that City 2 also reaches towards, and I look forward to further developments in this vein in Ollin’s works.

The show runs until December 2. It’s definitely worth the drive or regional rail trip out.

–Becky Hunter, who recently moved to Philadelphia from London, writes about art on her blog and at Art Papers, Sculpture and White Hot Magazine.


Thinking About Everything And Nothing

Carl Belz

Nothing is everything. The existential proposition is appealing, particularly in relation to visual art. But not all of it. Not art that originates in the purposeful urge to engage directly social or political issues and concerns, for instance, or undertake partisan cultural or institutional critique, or promote exclusively an ideology of one sort or another–in other words, and regardless of quality, not art that’s subsumed first and last by service to a personal agenda or theoretical program. Instead, art that addresses the ways of the world from a position that’s oblique to them, art that is self-aware in acknowledging its limits and autonomous in its being–art as art that stakes its all on being knowable in and of itself and is otherwise good for nothing. And why does such art mean everything to us? Because its ongoing process of knowing and acknowledging is synonymous with the experience of coming to ourselves from within rather than without, and too because it so candidly mirrors what modern experience–what our being in the world in the first place–is itself all about.

The art I’m referring to, modernist art, includes the paintings in this exhibition, a genre of abstraction representing a vital thread within the larger fabric of abstract painting, one whose history now reaches back a full century.


Pagus: Norristown’s Provocative Art Haven

By Walter Ault
Correspondent – Montgomery Media

For a few years now, a group of conscientious individuals has been taking on the challenge of bringing culture — primarily through the utilization of art — to the borough of Norristown.

This popular effort has been concentrated on DeKalb Street, near the Montgomery County Cultural Center. However, what many people don’t realize is that Norristown already has a real cultural gem — a very old, plain-looking brick building that sits alongside the Schuylkill River. It is a haven for art, artists and art lovers known as the Norristown Arts building, home to 21 residence studios and the Pagus Gallery.

Furthermore, through July 31, the former costume factory is also the place to view a provocative exhibition of abstract art titled “Color, Geometry and Abstraction: a national juried display of 69 works by 37 different artists from six different states.

The exhibit was envisioned and organized by Pagus Gallery director Ryan Earl, a 28-year-old artist from Norristown.

“I wanted a show that brought together artists from different backgrounds,” Earl said in a recent interview. “And I wanted artists who were relatively new as well as established, with the hope of getting momentum for the gallery and for Norristown. These are works,” Earl continued, “that focus on color and geometry. That is what I wanted. These are important works that need to be seen.”

Along with Ryan Earl, the other person largely responsible for the current exhibit is Ireland native Tim Hawksworth, an accomplished artist who purchased a former costume factory and converted it into the arts building in 1996.

According to past newspaper articles about Hawksworth, his idea was to provide a nurturing environment for artists of all kinds, one that offered freedom for exploration and development, as well as the appropriate space.

Hawksworth has become well-known for his benevolent efforts for artists as well as the community at large, exemplified by the affordable studio space he provides, as well as workshops and outreach programs. Of course, both the artists and the surrounding community benefit from the Pagus Gallery’s occasional shows like the current one.

Two of the artists with works featured in the exhibit are area residents Anna Belle Loeb, from Chestnut Hill, and Lisa Basil of Norristown. Both have three pieces of artwork in the show, and both had flattering things to say collectively about Hawksworth, Earl and the arts building itself.

Loeb is a retired lawyer and grandmother who has been painting for 10 years. But it’s only been in the last four years, Loeb explained, that she has been doing original pieces, thanks to the encouragement of Hawksworth.

“When I met Tim, I started painting original works. It was like a miracle,” Loeb said. “In the beginning it was hard to tap into my imagination. Tim,” Loeb continued, “taught me a lot about creativity and developing my own style and showed me how to paint what I feel and understand.”

One of Loeb’s most intriguing works is called “7 Seconds.” It is a painting inspired by the recent mass shooting in Arizona in which U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords was critically injured by a deranged assassin. The painting is a microcosm of the world, or at least the way Loeb sees it, with both good and evil. There are flowers, seemingly innocent people, bloody handprints and a pool of blood.

Lisa Basil, a 1991 graduate of the Moore College of Art, is an artist and photographer who has had exhibits in both genres. In recent years, she explained, she has become heavily involved with encaustic art.

“There are a lot of techniques involved in encaustic art,” Basil said. “Sculpture, printmaking and painting are all part of the process.

“Essentially,” Basil continued, “you combine beeswax, resin and pigments, heat the mixture and then form it into a work of art.

“This is an excellent show,” Basil pointed out. “It brings artists, art lovers and their families to Norristown.

“It is really an impressive show, with quality work,” Basil said. “Ryan did a great job putting it all together. I’m grateful this gallery is here. It is hard to find good quality places that show all kinds of art in a truly professional way.”