About My Work

Filtered through memory, my work examines the mysterious forces of the physical world and investigates our fragile position in the universe through the intersection of natural and technological modalities. I construct places, worlds, cosmologies that are represented both in the outer world of nature and the inner world of the psyche. Creating a multi dimensional collision of realms, the glimmer of unexpected openings provides inspiration for the process of painting. My painting process relates to the process of transcendence and transformation in which magic occurs through abstraction.
Within the picture plane pictorial fields give way to iconic shapes, shifting images float in and out of space, suggesting apocalyptic conditions. The iconography of the physical landscape has become an interior landscape, incorporating the most fundamental structure of nature, the cell. Derived from autobiographical sources, the work reflects a historical, social, cultural and personal awareness.
The narrative moves between reality and fiction. Contradictions and ambiguities are echoed in formal relationships. The play and contrast of line, form, color, point of view and spacial relationships are all subject to interpretation. The threat of the imbalance of our natural world lurks behind the picture plane. Pictorial fields are sometimes shifted and perspectives skewed. Visual perceptions of light and color suggest a place or a state of mind. Light and space create a transformative element evoking a metaphysical reality and an unconscious sensibility. The practice explores issues of order and chaos, conflict and harmony, abstraction and representation, rationality (science based) and irrationality.
I use stencils as archetypal symbols from the collective unconscious, botany and biology, employing a personal cryptogrammatic language to create an encoded narrative. Stencils create a rational and depersonalized mark (an imposition of man on nature) that works contrapuntally to the expressionistic and gestural mark making created in my paint handling. Color is unbridled but often refers to botany in green and biology in red. The surface interest of the paintings adds to a notion of timelessness and a suggestion of the ancient and evolved nature of the earth’s landscape and history. Employing a fresco secco technique, the images are detached and set adrift from their original context, giving consideration to both ancient and recent history.
I have become intrigued by cosmology, a branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of the universe, a study of its origins and the eventual fate of the cosmos. My process of abstraction in painting relates to the process of transcendence and transformation in alchemy which was not so much about the transformation of base metals into gold, as the creation of a new wisdom of being, the homunculus. The process of creation becomes more or at least as important as the nearly unattainable goal of transcendence. Reaching becomes the manifestation and reinforcement of vision for the preist, shamen, magician and artist.
Willlem de Kooning has described the glimpse of inspiration informing his content. “Content is a glimpse of something: an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny – very tiny content—it could change all the time. Each new glimpse is determined by many, many glimpses before. It’s the glimpse that inspires you — I notice those are always my moments of having an idea “
The iconography addresses mystic phenomena found in nature. In “Fire on the Water” the moment is captured in the glade, a recurring image, suggesting sacred space, sanctuary and separation. Fire on the water is a mirage found in nature; fata morgana in a metaphysical sense. The mirage is idolized into a mysterious purity: a sublime point of contrast between the spiritual and material realms. I had the inspiring privilege of witnessing the phenomenon outside my studio window on the Hudson River one summer day. It was a vision but it was real.
The painting, “The Golden Horn” refers to the horn shaped Bosporus Strait. In the twelfth century the inlet was instrumental in making Venice a super power through the spice trade. Golden refers to the riches brought into the city through the bustling historic harbor as well as the rich yellow light blazing upon the estuary waters as the sun sets over the city. Venice, its history and its magical light have always held the magic of “a dream of place”, a source of inspiration for me.
The VAS image as an archetypal symbol often recurs in these paintings as a V form representing at once the ancient vessel and the whirling phenomena of dervishes and tornados. The icon is steeped in and loaded with metaphysical magic. Carl Jung explains the nature of the vas as the vessel excepting the prima materia (the four elements). In alchemy transformation starts with the unconscious content (prima materia) and ends with the realization of the self. Jung wrote: “Into an egg shaped retort, the unum vas,vas bene clausum (well shaped vessel) or vas hermeticum (also called the uterus) went the prima materia, there to cook over a low flame (heating or cooking with meditation)” The image has deep personal mystery and meaning for me in reference to my own body’s ecology.
The eternal riddle encompasses points in time; it considers decay and rejuvenation. It’s innermost secret is revealed in the “other”, the spirit world – the ancestral footstep walking behind us.
Marianne van Lent 2017
Read review by Tom Wachunas, “Seeing the Sublime