The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2022

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JUL-AUG 2022 Issue
ArtSeen

Paul Pagk: Queen of Spades

Installation view, <em>Paul Pagk: Queen of Hearts</em>, New York. Images Courtesy Hionas Gallery.
Installation view, Paul Pagk: Queen of Hearts, New York. Images Courtesy Hionas Gallery.

On View
Hionas Gallery
May 19 – July 9, 2022
New York

Upon entering Hionas Gallery’s exhibition of paintings, viewers encounter the largest painting in the gallery space, Queen of Spades (2019), the piece that gives the show its title. It resembles the card that depicts the queen of spades flipped and mirrored along the center axis, producing an inverted portrait. The focal point is the rectangle that convenes with a triangle washed in white and blue. Paul Pagk manages to slow the viewer's gaze through vignettes on opposite corners that produce a diagonal axis, and the empty spaces that give an undertone of silence to the work. The genesis of this painting is indicated through the white line, left pure and untouched on most of the works to represent the birth of artwork. This painting orchestrates the rhythm of the show, inviting us to observe the artist's stylistic evolution from the exploration of patterns to the juxtaposition of the lines and forms.

As a remembrance of the Brighton Pier on the British Coast, the following painting is titled The Pier (2021–22). As one moves through this painting, our vision shifts according to the ambiance. When the natural light hits the canvas, the color absorbs the reflection of the light, changing its tonality. The continuous yellow line, despite being more subtle, shapes the structure. Subsequently, the colorful resonance emerges when the violet establishes a controlled relationship with the bold color. Although our attention is instinctively focused on the green volume that expands horizontally, the saturated violet hue appears intermittently, accentuating the green field as complementary colors. Thus, we discover the profile of a body suspended on a field but supported on a vertical axis. The object of the painting occupies a dichotomous state, static and stolid but also with overflowing potential to engage the infinite horizon.

Installation view, <em>Paul Pagk: Queen of Hearts</em>, New York. Images Courtesy Hionas Gallery.
Installation view, Paul Pagk: Queen of Hearts, New York. Images Courtesy Hionas Gallery.

Sometimes Pagk brings these relational energies into direct conversation with architectural structures. An early untitled series of fifteen smaller paintings portrays the artist's exploration of patterns. Vibrant colors, subtle traces, and unfinished lines cause the audience to gravitate to the figures on the canvas as they float with an unpredictable rhythm. We can distinguish that one of the qualities of Pagk's oeuvre is the game of illusion. He puts forth this exhibition to encourage viewers to immerse themselves in the exhibition, to discover each painting in a way that is not possible to fully appreciate on a screen.

While walking toward Hionas Gallery, my attention was swayed by the sun's reflection framing Hathor (2021). This positionality brought out the combination of the pink color of the surface with the yellow and white geometric forms, framing it in delicate light. At that precise moment, the shadow played over the work as if it were inviting me to explore the asymmetrical balance of its composition. This painting shows a continuous line drawing an ascending ladder that, despite its flatness, holds perspective. Its rhythm is accentuated by triads: three short lines and three small circles. While the white contour of the trace provides a sense of depth, the small circles seem to pull down the energy of the painting, injecting equilibrium. The nature of the painting centers the viewer in a meditative moment. Pagk uses geometrical forms as the vehicle to reflect on one’s passage in the world and the impossibility of holding onto a single moment.

Installation view, <em>Paul Pagk: Queen of Hearts</em>, New York. Images Courtesy Hionas Gallery.
Installation view, Paul Pagk: Queen of Hearts, New York. Images Courtesy Hionas Gallery.

For Pagk, “every painting is a discovery,” and Queen of Spades provides an activating experience beyond the surface of the canvas. It leads us to discover the origin of architectural scapes in different planes, where the bustle of the city and the noise of our thoughts vanish. Oscillating between a state of peace and interrupted moments, each structure that appears is catalyzed by the remnants of our memories. Perhaps the origin of Pagk's paintings is not only continuity but a suspended turning point for social and cultural regeneration. After being inundated with the digital world and its manipulated content consumption, we find ourselves eager to establish a direct dialogue. This exhibition offers the opportunity to reignite our experiences in the material world.

Contributor

Emireth Herrera Valdés

Emireth Herrera Valdés is a contributor to the Brooklyn Rail.

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The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2022

All Issues