'Fundamentally one always interprets the real, and everything is grist to the artist's mill. Everything is a starting point' - Pablo Picasso, 1956
Taking the very issue at the core of the development of the progressive abstract movements of the last century--from Picasso's Cubism to the New York School of De Kooning and Pollock' Amy Cohen Banker strikingly demonstrates how much more of significance there remains to be said about painting's untrammeled capacity for expression. Banker is working out of the legacy of modernism. She does so with aplomb by bringing into her considerations of painting a diverse array of art historical and other influences drawn from?to name but a few--the Japanese Masters, Western Old Masters, antique furniture and objects to the fields of philosophy, literature, poetry, psychology, music, and women's studies.
Her canvases with their layered tactile surfaces are the richer for being the product of a creative method and approach predicated on the desire to seek and search out the truths about life's grand archetypes and overarching universal themes, its daily activities and routine incidences. Her painting is grounded no less in the need to understand and celebrate the challenging and restorative roles the medium plays in the public arena and the individual's private sphere.
For Banker' life and painting' are nothing if not inextricably connected, and the pictorial language she is developing with its multiple levels of abstract, abstracted, figural, metaphorical, symbolical and representational resonances is seen to be one eminently suited to describing links between the two to be discerned through the relating of content and form, form and content. What at first glance can appear as a random mark or area of color, a non-objective element can seem with sustained viewing to support a reading of figural connotations.
This happens, for instance, in the painting Apollo, 2008, and other examples of the series of 30 x 40 inch sized canvases inspired by Classical Greek mythological gods, goddesses and personages. Once the contours of the head and torso are distinguished, and the handsome god of beauty is seen as merging with and emerging from his surroundings, the metaphorical door springs open and the mind's eye enters into the emblematic poetic construction of the blazing light and color-filled surfaces of this painting. Ideas about Apollo are sparked. Is the painting presenting Apollo as a special being at one with the elements, a symbolic embodiment of the vital energies and fires of nature, as the dominant reds and yellows suggest, or as a patron of the ever burning creative fires of painting and poetry?
Verdant , 4 x 6 inches, and Jeremy the Cat, 3 x 8 inches, two of an engaging series of small canvases started in 2008 are revealing of how the intense vital properties of Banker's painted surfaces are the key to attracting and holding the attention of the mind's eye. The lushness of nature is wondrously conveyed in the piling of variously shaped and colored leaves one on the other in Verdant . The small size lends an intimacy and aesthetic preciousness to the composition that, in turn, sends thoughts and feelings racing to gems and treasures; to those offered up for our discovery in nature and art to be coveted, savored and saved. Within the challenging confines of the small canvas, Banker provides a vivid likeness capturing the charm of the animal entitled here Jeremy the Cat .
Mythology, nature, landscapes, portraits, sleep and dreams, these are but some of the recent subjects treated by Banker. The range is reflective of Banker's openness. An adventurous artist, she enjoys the challenges of tackling subjects new to her and of reinventing themes she returns to. Her painting attests to how more than 50 years after Picasso's statement to the effect that an artist ?always interprets the real, and everything is grist to the artist's mill?, the great 20th century master's words carry new currency. The narrowing and didactic tendencies in contemporary painting fostered starting in the 1960s by Minimalism and Pop and their aftermath are being let go; Banker is contributing to the new exciting chapter in the history of painting being written today.
Ronny Cohen c 2008