Elsie Kagan

My work is grounded equally in the history of representative painting and in contemporary concerns with materiality and surface. My explorations take as a launching point a historical genre – recently classical images of a mother and child or the humble still life -- and reinterpret the genre’s language to probe its enduring resonance. How do its conceptual underpinnings, formal conventions, and compositional tactics relate to contemporary concerns and strategies of representation?

My work harnesses the power of pictorial space and surface presence, testing the line between representation and abstraction. Often large in scale, the work is physically active, corresponding with my arm span and the movement of my body. My other line of inquiry involves smaller compositions on panel —intimate sketches that emphasize drawing and mimesis as a counterpoint to the large-scale work. My pictures depict the delicate refraction of stems in water alongside gravity’s power to drag color down a surface, the search for something to be real and alive but never change, and also that charged moment when paint is at once a smear and a cluster of blossoms.