Sunday, October 02, 2005

Squeak Carnwath

Squeak Carnwath
Backwards Map (2002)
Color aquatint, spitbite,
sugarlift and soapground
etching with softground,
hardground, drypoint,
sanding and chine collé

Somerset white textured paper
Image size 30" x 20"
Paper size 40" x 29"
Edition of 30

Emerging in the early 1980s, painter Squeak Carnwath, a Professor in Residence at the University of California at Berkeley, has evolved a number of vocabularies with which she explores the dilemmas of the self in relation to a larger world. Carnwath combines luminous color with handwritten notations, hieroglyphic symbols and the delineation of everyday objects. Meaning is not read literally or narratively from her canvases, but is instead elliptical and open-ended.

Carnwath's canvases and prints evoke the loss, doubt and humility that are rooted in life's experience. Her compositions register, often whimsically but also viscerally, emotional pain, the questioning of truth, and the recovery of difficult family memory through therapy. The artist is committed to revealing something of herself in her work. Carnwath humorously tempers her expression of free-floating anxiety through the use of occasional tongue-in-cheek references to Freud, and the establishment of dotted, outlined areas, so-called safe spaces that she terms "Guilt Free Zones" (a reference to the residual guilt of her Catholic upbringing). The artist manages to effectively turn personal disquietude toward a larger expression of concern for what she calls the crisis of contemporary existence. Over the past few decades, Carnwath has attempted to conduct an extended conversation in her work about (pre-September 11th) social ills such as the environment, violence, crime, AIDS, and urban despair, as well as those that can be less easily identified. Indeed, this artist - a kind of poet-scribe putting down on her canvases the questioning inner conversations that we all experience - has become a voice for our day-to-day imaginings and conscience. Graphically, sensually, Carnwath weaves together a dizzying register of the daily minutiae that fill our heads, with subtle references to the larger social, political and economic issues that we confront.

Interview with Squeak Carnwath

More writings about her work

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