Amy Banker's Recent Paintings

Amy Banker is an artist pursuing her very own vision. An independent by nature, she has developed a passionate style that reflects her considerable intelligence. Devoting herself to the expression of feelings and thoughts at a time when painting itself is being challenged as an art form, Banker has persisted in following her particular path during her two decades on the New York art scene. Individuality is the key to a strong esthetic. Of course, a painter living in New York is affected by the city's long history of action painting. But Banker has also lived in Tokyo for three years, and her work is equally informed by the startling strokes of fifteenth century Japanese scroll paintings. While her rich use of paint emulates no one in particular, Banker's bold effects relate her to almost every artist who paints seriously today. Even if one would find similarities to other artists, it is clear that Banker always maintains her own vision.

Banker sees painting as a kind of performance or action, in which the overlapping brush strokes, colors, and shapes are themselves the building blocks of a nascent esthetics. Objects are absorbed and transformed for the sake of beauty, as the artist moves towards abstraction. Twenty years ago, Banker began by painting a world crowded with objects taken from life: umbrellas, bicycles, apples. In her more recent works, such as her rough approximations of cityscapes or her interpretations of opera, she seems to be increasingly devoted to the abstract. Also, there is more freedom in the handling of paint: her strokes seem to be swifter and she handles her colors ever more whimsically. Banker is someone who is at home in the nonobjective world. As time goes by and as her style evolves, more and more - and this is true about most artists from the fifteenthcentury on - it is the act of painting itself that concerns her, rather than the registration of objects.

Banker is nothing if not lyrical in her approach to art. Broad bands of paint and curling ribbons of color characterize her most recent paintings. Like many artists who have been influenced by the New York School, Banker finds interest in paint as a medium in itself. Her sense of stylistic allusion emphasizes the physicality of her chosen art form. She presents her viewers with a Gorky-like profusion of organic forms, bending and curling around each other with sensual abandon. Arabesques of red and green, patches of yellow and blue, bloat across her canvases highlighted by the white ground. It is playful painting, intuitively realized-and convincing of the emotional power of her art. At the same time, however, her work is driven by thought; Banker's decisions, in which colors and forms are contrasted and compositional forces evenly played out across the canvas, are painstakingly made. Her paintings are built upon the idea of art as thoughtful 3 action and abandoned pleasure. They comment on the enjoyable activity of the ephemeral gesture, its unfailing ability to render visible the internal state of the artist at a particular instance in time. The unusual skill Banker possesses is important because the premise of her painting' addressing, even well into the Digital Age, the relationship of the outer world of art to the inner world of the painter' reflects on the contemporary understanding of creativity.

Banker is independent as an artist not only because it is in her nature to be so, but also because her style demands to be taken in no terms other than its own. Additionally, a painter's work gains in power as the viewer becomes aware that painting is not only a sensuous but also a serious medium, whose every achievement may be seen as belonging to a continuing tradition in art.

In Banker's paintings there is always a great intricacy to shape and hue; also, more often than not, one finds abstract overdrawings that invigorate the underlying forms and colors. Banker's strong suite may be her sense of color: in her dense, complex paintings the colors overlap and merge, with wispy white brush strokes energizing the work. Or her appeal may lie in the transparency of her forms, which allows the viewer to see through them as if the painting were a palimpsest, and which enables her to be both forceful and delicate, at once solid and ethereal. Ultimately, Banker's main achievement is her ease at creation, the freedom of having nothing to prove.

- Jonathan Goodman