Saskia Pintelon: Getting to the Heart

Getting to the Heart, 2010, acrylic paint and embroidery on cotton canvas, 227 x 158 cm. Image courtesy of Yavuz Fine Art.

A shrine, or a tribute to abstract expressionism, or so I thought, as Saskia Pintelon’s more-image-than-text paintings came into view. Like Mark Rothko’s soft-edged, colored-rectangles that often alluded to metaphysical concerns that extended beyond the material boundaries of his canvas, Pintelon’s palette of muddy earth-tones that bleed black, greys and reds seems to suggest that the contemporary creative process remains primeval and transcendental but inescapably hybrid.

But the similarity ceases here. The canvasses in the Pintelon’s exhibition entitled Getting to the Heart, are not large (comparatively speaking) and neither is the presented work preoccupied with viewing distance, as was Rothko’s obsession. While Rothko’s colossal canvasses express basic human emotions and like altar pieces, compel their viewers to step past the boundaries of materiality and into what Robert Rosenblum calls “a quasi-religious state of awe”, Pintelon invests heavily in the power of language which contrasts, or reinforces the inner-worldly and the imagination.

Walk the Extra Mile, 2010, acrylic paint and embroidery on cotton canvas, 158 x 143 cm. Image courtesy of Yavuz Fine Art.

Pintelon’s approach to pictorial space is one that focuses on the primacy of color rather than on painterliness. Set against the abstracted and distilled backgrounds, Walk the Extra Mile‘s embroidered white text in various sizes appropriated from trite statements, song lyrics and casual questions speak of the preternatural. “The Beginning of the End” reads the white lettering from one canvas, while another urges, “Walk the extra mile,”and on another, “To Reality.” The collection of news headlines reiterates the gloom of spiraling violence and the cheapening of human existence in contemporary society,  deconstructing the varied impressions, views, pathos and emotions of an artist who has been a long-time resident in a foreign land far from her native Belgium.

As a discrete whole, Pintelon’s canvases cumulatively read as a playful (and sometimes contemplative) blend of gibberish. Like graffiti scrawls, her fragmented texts also seem to justify the need for and the relevance of platitudes, especially if they emanate from a personal vision or from issues that hit home too closely.

To Reality, 2010, acrylic paint and embroidery on cotton canvas, 140 x 134 cm. Image Courtesy of Yavuz Fine Art.

Saskia Pintelon is a Flemish Belgian artist who has been residing in Sri Lanka for 30 years. She has exhibited in Belgium, France, Germany, India, Sri Lanka and Bulgaria. Presented by Yavuz Fine Art, Getting to the Heart is her first solo exhibition in Singapore, and will be on show until 9 January 2011.