Fall into Abstraction with These Beguiling Landscapes

The Janus series of paintings is as much about concealment as it is revelation, made through a process of covering over painted figures with layers of white paint: a paradoxically backwards process of creation through partial destruction. As the new offering from San-Diego based artist Leah Pantea, this collection of delicately washed ‘landscapes’ is a firm continuation of the artist’s figurative back catalogue, but pushes each sharp and ricocheting line detail further back into a characteristic mist of white.

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Shapes loom – or failing that, simply suggest themselves – out of the haze, taking indistinct forms and gesturing towards familiar landscapes, without reaching a fully realized shape; the series is aptly titled, then, after the double-faced ancient Roman god of liminal spaces. Punctuated by sharp darts and judiciously applied swathes of black, this abstract set of landscapes is delicate and beguilingly quiet.

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We caught up with Leah to talk about her work, her philosophy, and her artistic development.

The Plus: You say of your paintings that “Every work is born out of a single moment”. Could you expand on that?
Leah Pantea:
None of my paintings are planned ahead of time. When I do this, it allows room for the painting to grow into what it dictates, not what I strong-arm it into. It allows my work, and my process, to feel much more free.

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TP: You describe your work, and the relationship between it and your audience, in very spatial vocabulary – as ‘mental landscapes’, for example. What, for you, constitutes a ‘landscape’ in this more abstract way?
LP:
For me, saying ‘landscape’ creates a location. It is easier to understand space when you think of it as a place. I refer to my pieces as landscapes, because I want a viewer to feel like they could go into it, and experience it almost in a physical way. It is a way of evolving my work from paint on a wall, into a mental experience.

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TP: When a piece – one of these ‘emotional landscapes’ – is complete, do you recognize yourself in it?
LP:
I am definitely in all of my works, but more than identifying myself, I can identify how I was feeling when I created it, and what I was currently thinking about. Some of my paintings feel more like literature, location, or faith, more than they feel like me.

TP: You are very sparing with your use of colour; what attracts you to this?
LP:
Minimalism is very important to me in my work. Color is incredibly powerful, and can have even more power and intention if I use it in an incredibly strategic manner. I think colors are also their most interesting when they are barely different, for example when shifting gently between warm and cool tones.

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TP: Your style is very recognizable, could you talk us through how it developed?
LP:
Thank you! When I was studying, my work was quite figurative, but I was frustrated that with literal work, it would be looked at, and I knew the order of thought that would happen. A viewer recognizes something, they judge whether it is “good” or “bad,” and then like it on those terms or if there is interest in that subject. It was more difficult for me to have engaging conversations through my work. With abstraction, I can extend what I want to discuss away from what we see, to what we feel and experience.

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TP: How – if at all – does your art influence the other areas of your life?
LP:
I would probably say that my paintings are the outlet, rather than the inspiration for my life. That being said, I lead my life so that I am continually fueling my creativity. I keep a carefully curated workspace, I try to experiment and learn daily, and am constantly pushing myself into discomfort. This drive, I believe, nurtures my work and allows it to grow and connect with more and more people, which for me is the most important part.

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