Kay Aubanel: Spatial Metaphors

By John K. Grande.

Recalling Josef Albers comment that "Art is not an object but an experience", Kay Aubanel shapes her painterly visions of light and space in a highly individualistic way. Active in the Montreal arts scene since the early days of Powerhouse Gallery in the 1970s, Aubanel's art has explored architectural interiors and spaces for some time. The tight knit exhibition of paintings being presented at David Astrof Fine Arts further develops her themes of space, light and architecture, so much so that the structures become abstract metaphors for the passage of time. Suffused with sublime painterly surface and light effects, the architectural motifs - the starting point for these works - are transformed so as to become transparent. Light becomes a metaphor for some immaterial state of being. The forms we initially recognize seem to dissolve in space...

In La Ligne Blue II, a Dante-esque geometry of subterranean passageways and walls is followed, along its walls, by a blue line, always at the same height, a colouristic keynote that passes ignominiously through the warm and cool light areas of the painting. A door, slightly ajar, provides a suggestion of another space we cannot enter into. The surface swirls of paint are as riveting as the underground scenario. The ghostly painterly surfaces and play of surface light achieve a filmic kind of transparency, as if this were a subliminal metaphor for some subconscious and illusory state of being. In Passage, an industrial passage and roof structure is transformed into a sacred, contemplative, even visionary space. The hierarchy of the structure looks archaic, like an Egyptian inner sanctum. Our sense of a place, Aubanel's Passage seems to suggest, is in the eyes of the beholder.

Kay Aubanel's vision explores its spatial metaphors with a sublime sensitivity to place and the way time weaves its way onwards. L'Offrande expands and extends the multi-faceted lines of a building interior, then superimposes a circular motif onto it. The sense of a dimensional shift, of an unfolding and abstract geometry of space and light is cathedral-like. The shapes and forms are illusory, float as if by magic in ever expanding space like a wave of transformation. In Puits de lumière, Aubanel's use of light-dark effects become the subject and space the ubiquitous metaphor for some invisible and ongoing force of life. Smaller studies like Sans titre (la main dans la main-bleu) are child-like in their simple abstract treatment of folds and swirls of cloth that unfold in space into a torso and hand.

La traversée de l'éphemère, a 4-panel multimedia piece is undoubtedly the most powerful piece in the show. Here, Aubanel achieves a simultaneity of movement that recalls early 20th century Italian Futurist works by Carlo Carra, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla and Umberto Boccioni. The movement here, seen in ghostly swirls of shadowy light and dark forms no longer has any specific subject, but instead becomes pure luminosity, trailing off abstractly into abstract space. These "forms" define their own dimensionality and each of the panels presents a unique, yet related scene. The dynamism is fluid, not at all mechanistic, and wholly naturalistic. The suggestive configurations and continual movement build a rhythm, that in each panel is like a stanza, an interlude, that leads on to next one. In the far right panel, a cube of pure white light offers yet another window or dimensionality to the scenario. The effect is like time sequence photography, a medium that Aubanel experimented with at an earlier stage in her career. Many levels or layers of abstraction occur simultaneously.

Working with form and light/dark effects, Kay Aubanel instils her work with a sense of the passage of time, yet light remains the eternal constant that configures her compositions. As Aubanel states: "These works are often triggered by concrete experiences. Its the mystery behind the prosaic. My art springs from an acute sense of the passage of time, the speed of life. You have to flow with it, fight it, ultimately celebrate it..."