Lily Stockman: “Pollinator” at GAVLAK Gallery


“Cochineal,” 2016, Lily Stockman, Oil on linen, 62″ x 50″
Photo: courtesy GAVLAK Gallery

Lily Stockman’s new series of minimalist abstract paintings represent a visual synthesis of the artist’s dual interests in painting and botany. Her compositions take their cue from Derek Jarman’s postmodern English coastal garden, in which stones and native plants are defined in geometric beds. The harmonious shapes residing within the frames of her canvases are like aerial views of gardens condensed to the purest essence. Soft-edged, rather than hard, the curved linear borders of her biomorphic shapes are hand rendered, slightly irregular, pleasingly organic. They elegantly describe sections of color in elongated ovals, spherical and ellipse-like shapes. From a few feet away, the finish of the oil paint appears to be smoothed into a matte patina. Up close, light reflects on the surface, lending luminosity to the paint.

Stockman studied painting and botany at Harvard University and received her MFA in studio art from New York University. In between, she studied Buddhist thangka painting in Mongolia and also studied pigment and Mughai miniature painting in Rajasthan. For her first solo exhibit at Gavlak Gallery, Stockman, who currently splits her time between LA and Joshua Tree, borrows inspiration from the desert light and the subdued colors of that landscape for her palette. Painted in oil on dyed linen in 2016, the works are all roughly body height at 62-by-50 inches, except for Slot Canyon, which is larger. They are composed of an interplay of shapes and surrounding outlines in secondary and pastel colors along with Cremnitz white-Payne’s grey, soft browns, salmon, tints of blue and cadmium yellow. Within the subtleties of the palette, a vast range of nuance flourishes. In some pieces, like Salt Flat, the muted border outlining the form almost vanishes into the background. In others, like Black Lava Butte, the outline color contrasts more strikingly with the three oval shapes. In Hondo Wash, a background of white almost appears to bleed onto the wall, extending the image as if the transposed rendition of abstracted landscape could go on forever.

During the time Stockman was painting the series she was concurrently working in her desert garden. The botanical structure, shapes, cactus pads and rock perimeters of the garden beds infuse these works. She refers to her paintings as, “exercises in noticing.” From the center of the gallery, immersed in the aura of these quiet paintings, a gradual mood of tranquility descends, as if transported to a garden.