Jackie Tileston: “Field Guide to Elsewhere” at Zg Gallery

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Still in Arrival
2014
Oil and mixed media on linen
48″ x 60″
Photo: courtesy Zg Gallery

To introduce her exhibition “Field Guide to Elsewhere,” Jackie Tileston quotes infamous writer, artist and junkie philosopher, William S. Burroughs: “It is to be remembered that all art is magical in origin… and by magical I mean intended to produce very definite results.” In Tileston’s paintings, it’s clear that beauty is paramount, but beauty and form are no ends in themselves. Through this language of luminous color, nebulous form, gesture and texture, the artist’s abstractions succeed in producing narratives and scenes that not only transcend our everyday visual experience, but also reiterate, in a unique way, art’s ability to make concrete the subconscious and the otherworldly.

Many an artist has applied intuition to abstraction in order to express the otherwise intangible, but what makes Tileston and her paintings so singular within this well-worn method is her ability to shirk allegiance to any one style. In works like The History of Things That Didn’t Happen, washes, stains and vaporous networks of airbrushed lines are used to create the illusion of a swirling cosmos in the painting’s background as the foreground bears a dense build-up of multicolored smears, strokes of pure pastel tones, and vaguely floral patches of slick enamel. Instilling tension within this heap of lush, organic marks and forms is a sharp scrawl of illegible graffiti. Black with highlights of green and a severe yellow outline, this “tag” counters Tileston’s celestial, dreamlike harmony with a harsh reference to urban reality.

Notable throughout Tileston’s exhibition, as well as her overall oeuvre, is a sampling of Eastern visual traditions. Tantric circles and multicolored mandala forms are peppered throughout many of the works. Passing Through No Place contains an egg-shaped stupa with a mandorla or halo, and a nest of lotus petals floats amongst washes of pinks, blues and bare linen. Here, Tileston’s Eastern references are no lesson in art history, as the artist stylizes them heavily with stripes, patterns and rainbow colors-the imagery functioning both as devotional tools and simply as tropes for intuitive formal play. Still in Arrival features a dusting of powdery red pigment, illustrating notions of precariousness and impermanence as it clings lightly to the linen, while also referencing the most enduring of traditions, like the Hindu festival of Holi or mounds of Moroccan spices. Tileston’s paintings possess a sense of timelessness, a blending together of spiritual study, art history and the mundane sights of everyday contemporary life, to create a physical manifestation of consciousness that is accessible to even the most grounded of viewers.