Do you know this thing that happens to pilots, where they reverse the sea with the sky? It’s called a Fata Morgana, a mirage, the bending of light that occurs when two atmospheric temperatures create a steep thermal inversion.
Nina Johnson is pleased to announce Where they reverse the sea with the sky, a solo exhibition of new work by New York-based artist Nathlie Provosty. Opening February 22nd in the Front Gallery, the exhibition presents a series of the artist’s characteristically subtle and highly tactical abstract paintings and drawings that investigate themes of perception, materiality, and paradox.
A color transition ensues. Initially the viewer is surrounded by cool-gray and the painting Fata Morgana (2024) – a large, silvery swordsong of beam-like diagonals. Walk further around a constructed scrim wall, and you enter a space of hot yellows and oranges. There hangs Temple of Mind (2019-2024), a vivid saffron monolith that is ever-so-slightly misaligned in the manner of the Cycladic kouros figures (with their characteristically skewed feet). Temple of Mind conjures the feeling of basking in a sacred, fiery glow.
The works exhibited in Where they reverse the sea with the sky explore the idea of the body as a phenomenal instrument, capable of receiving and sending information through energetics, pleasure, pain, dream, and intuition. Utilizing ambiguity and refinement as a lens to construct images on the delicate edge of subtlety, Provosty’s work flickers within ideas of spatiality, sensuality, formal nuance, and inherent fundamental conflicts within communication.
Between Fata Morgana and Temple of Mind lies the Kinesics series, ink, gouache, enamel, and collage drawings that are an expansion upon recent works shown in Italy. Kinesics is the study of non-verbal communication such as body language, or a blush. Exhibited here in custom artist-designed resin “jellyfish” frames on a translucent scrim wall and created through automatism – using pen and ink, the brush, collage, and spilling – these pieces explore the phenomenon of translucency. Many images use echo, reversals, doubling, and within the process of their creation are regularly flipped. Also exhibited are two Icons (2024), Scorpion (2024), and The opening of the field (2024), paintings of meticulous engineering that reflect larger themes of misdirection, alignment, and sensitivity to the nature of light.
“Inversion has been something that’s a continued interest, in terms of pairing differences: such as intimacy in a large size or monumentality in a small size,” said Nathlie Provosty. “What creates interest in painting? What makes you believe in a painting? And from there you get into these questions around what makes a belief at all?”
Where they reverse the sea with the sky is on view through March 30, 2024.