KATHERINE NEMANICH

 

In my ink and paper constructions, I tear, shape, and combine drawn and prepared papers. Working with ink and brushes of many sizes, I begin with large gestural movements that echo the rhythmic flow of musical phrasing. Prior to my studio session, I listen to many musical selections, 18th century Baroque, contemporary classical, or jazz, and select the music I will listen to as I work according to the kind of mood or energy I wish to convey and by visualizing the music’s effect on my linear gestures. I then lay large papers in rows together on the floor and work quickly from one paper to the next, changing brush sizes as needed and allowing ink to dry before adding other tones. Later I use portions of these gestural paintings as layered components, combined with durable papers, and build three-dimensional forms so as to create the illusion that these forms burst out of themselves within a sturdy physicality. The forms are non-rectangular and have folded, torn, or curled edges that crawl outwards to extend across the wall.

My marks are gestural abstractions, however, the shapes, shadows, forms, and lines I use can suggest an undulation and take on an aspect that may suggest energy, landmass, waves, ice or snow, rock, or other physical elements. I choose to work on paper because of its long history as a means of recording human thoughts and ideas. Paper is a natural material, recyclable, and environmentally safe. Also, tearing and shaping the paper is another mark of the human hand.

My pictorial language derives from many areas. Characteristics I observe in natural forms, such as rocks and fossils inspire me always. Years of study in calligraphy guide my strokes and brush work. My lifelong study of music, its performance, and reading of musical notation—including facsimiles of autograph manuscripts from the 13th century to those of contemporary times—influence my marks and details in my compositions.

My constructions have a long personal history. As a child, I was fascinated by found elements and piecing them together in new constructions. I created sculptures by combining Brazil nutshells to create figures within a scene I crafted from cardboard and straw. I created 3-D houses and cityscapes from cardboard my father brought home from work for me; and from flat corrugated shipping boxes, I created 3-D landscapes and roadways with hills and bridges for my little brother to use in his imaginative play. I also was fascinated by the peeling of paint on our old house’s exterior and the flaking and chips of interior paint, and as I picked and peeled shapes in the brittle paint, I revealed layers of previous paint colors from an earlier time, like archaeological finds. In my constructions today I build on concepts of hidden layers and continue the process of discovery in assembling my pre-made pieces into something entirely new so as to reconstruct a new reality of my own invention. 

Current Influences include Mark Bradford, Cy Twombly, Gao Xingjian, Julie Mehretu, and Qin Feng. From Robert Nickle, one of my most memorable teachers at UIC, I maintain an enduring, indefatigable interest in the many kinds and extremely varied uses of collage and a deep appreciation for the natural marks contained within weathered scraps of previous use papers, which are in their way, fossils from our present times.