[Catalogue essay, William Busta Gallery, Feb. 2013]

Andrea Joki: The Unseen


        Time measures our lives, unwrinkling and simplifying the broken terrain of
actual experience.  But duration may be a better word to use when speaking of
paint and paintings.  Duration suffers and innovates, and evades equations. It
suggests a dimension that haunts the other three, as well as providing them
with a playing field.  Andrea Joki’s works in various media are accounts and
examples of such fundamental haunting.
Last winter Joki spent several mornings in the Mojave Desert.  She was making
her “Gravity Drawings,” allowing variously hued dollops of diluted acrylic paint
to drip in narrow parallel lines down large pieces of paper. This took about
three and half hours, and while she was waiting Joki took pictures using a tripod-
mounted digital Nikon camera.  Many of these shots captured a vaporous,
watercolor-like figural blur -- herself, in motion somewhere between presence
and absence.  The camera clicked off one-half second exposures at five
second intervals, smoothing several unevenly textured desert sessions into a
particularly beautiful series of photographs.  Some of these are now the
contents of the book, “Time Passing in the Mojave Desert.” As a book or as a
series, the images speak concisely about the evanescence of human
presence.  The lines lengthen as the dry hours pass like a homemade clock,
counting toward dust.
Back in her studio, Joki approaches questions about time and materials in a
somewhat different way. At first sight a painting such as her roughly five foot
square acrylic on canvas Confused Birds presents a lattice-like appearance,
shimmering as it oscillates between foreground and background. But on closer
examination the effect proves to be more of a beckoning, leading the eye into a
place of intense painterly complication.  Joki says she “draws with tape,” and
the hard-edged aspects of her overall patterning are made by successive
spatterings and concealments, randomness succeeding and succeeded by a
grid-iron application of tape.  As many as nine layers of this kind of addition and
subtraction are piled up in some of Joki’s recent works. Layering is a fact of any
painting’s structure, but in Joki’s compositions it takes on a recognizably
musical character, using proto-minimalist elements, like her splashes and drips
of color, to texture a sort of score, made up of rhythmic structures.  Or maybe
the spatterings are the traces of an explosive work that underlies serial
attempts at repression – or a tantalizing program of forgetfulness, that
highlights what it remembers.
Joki’s title  Sound Between Heartbeats emphasizes the tendency of her
technique to evoke types of perception other than sight. All of these paintings
have a beat, inaudible though it may be. Tactility is another such property; who
can look at the imprint of a piece of scotch tape on a wall and not re-imagine an
intimately complicated, peeling sensation?  But because Joki applies and
removes her painter’s tape with great precision, the close-up perceptual
emphasis is on a tiny variation in depth that her sharp edges create, as she
reiterates her crisscross blockage/erasure. The eye travels bumpily through the
micro-terrain of Joki’s surface, stopping and starting as it tries to look around
corners. In a way, a painting like Confused Birds is so densely packed with
visual incident that it’s hard to see.  Pools and patches of color glint behind
staccato strokes as if wrapped in a storm of black wings, affrighted in the
foreground. Joki’s paintings blink as they look toward the brightness and
thickness of experience, somewhat in the way that a camera shuts its darkness
on and off. Joki takes pictures, makes pictures, by binding the visible with the
unseen.