Walking up to one of Natalia Wróbel’s paintings is like stepping through a doorway into an imagined realm that feels strangely familiar. Her current body of work, Portals, uses painting as an entrance into those moments that lie in between here and there. She opens this gateway through meditation, reaching into herself and filling the canvas with the worlds that lie behind her closed her eyes.
Originally from California, Wróbel found her way to the northeast when she studied studio art and art history at Dartmouth College. During her studies, she also spent time at the Lorenzo De Midici School in Florence, and since then studied at The New York Studio School in New York City. Her work has been featured in galleries and private collections all over the country.
Wróbel’s process is as spiritual as it is technical. Her Somerville studio is filed with books and plants, the walls are dotted with dripped paint from her works in progress. The space above her desk is covered with pinned images from her life, travels, and history that inspire her work. She draws from poetry, philosophy, her Polish-American heritage of strength and perseverance, and the idea of universal consciousness—that we are all more similar than we are different.
The image that comes through most clearly in her work is that of neural networks of the brain in meditation. This is the state of “relaxed attentiveness” and “whole brain connectivity”, when information flows most freely to nuclei. She begins every painting session with warm ups that energize her body and mind, such as reading, yoga, and dancing.
“Painting is about channeling and guiding energy in the visual, physical plane,” Wróbel explains. “It’s both an ethereal practice and one that’s rooted in intense physicality. I love this duality.”
Her palettes are based on her mood and intuition, and mixing paint acts as a meditation to prepare her for the act of moving her brush across canvas. The first strokes are her favorite, carving out the scaffolding for each piece. Every stroke captures her journey from beginning to end; the movement of her arms and the intricate dance of her process are rendered in the final product. Each layer deepens the world of her painting, drawing back the curtains that separate us from the space Wróbel refers to as Kairos: an ancient Greek word meaning “the uncounted moment”.
Wróbel uses a variety of painting techniques to express the duality she feels is intrinsic to painting. She lets dark and light, bright and neutral colors to play side-by-side, creates a three-dimensional landscape where flat brushwork and thick impasto meet. The effect creates both tension and harmony, which opens up little seams that come apart and crease together to form unique imagery. Impressions of the organic and architectural structures that inspire Wróbel’s work are interwoven within.
Every viewer is drawn to a different part of each painting, and sees something different in its scene as his or her own spiritual, emotional, and intellectual energy converses with the artists’. This is an essential part of Wróbel’s work. “In a way, painting is my version of prayer, a visual manifestation of my gratitude and practice of mindfulness,” she says. “I hope my paintings can serve as portals for the viewer to enter their own meditative Kairos.”
Natalia Wróbel's work is on view at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery from April 1 - May 1, 2016 as a part of the duo show, Liminal Drift.
Friday, April 8, 2016: Puloma Ghosh