Site Review: Cynthia Grow

Site Review: Cynthia Grow

Paintings Influenced by Poetry

By Richard Malinsky, Arts Editor

Richard Malinsky

There is a captivating ambiguity to Cynthia Grow’s paintings that reflects her desire “to create a mood where there may not be an obvious story.” Grow is a painter who explores themes of memory, desire, and interpersonal relationships in search of the intangible. And whose work is influenced by literature and philosophy, in particular, the poetic.

It was the Catalan poet Joan Margarit who inspired the Language of The Sea series. The works share a similar compositional format and muted moody palette, and viewing them is reminiscent of reading and re-reading a poem, when each time you might discover a new interpretation on theme. These paintings are not literal interpretations of poems. Rather, they seek to capture an essence. I was particularly drawn to the stunning color variation of “I Heard Your Name Uttered…” a work that conveys her reverence toward nature.

An abstract painting of vertical, earth-toned shades
Cynthia Grow, I Heard Your Name Uttered…, acrylic on wood, 60cm x 60cm

I found the series Love Letters particularly fascinating in a very different way. It consists of a collection of edited love letters written by historical figures and famous lovers presented as pages from a book. The words alone certainly stimulate viewer interest. However, some of the words are obscured by an energetic swash of red paint, visually altering the content so that the work is elevated to a more conceptual level. The red swash, perhaps obscuring a secret passage, becomes symbolic, or as Grow may describe it, “a metaphor for the things unspoken that exist in us all.”

Ripped pages from a book with paint over the text, and new text written over
Cynthia Grow, Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer, November, 1912. Acrylic and graphite on book

Grow’s Vespre series is based on her memory of “the ever-changing sky” when she attended vesper services at the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, Catalunya, Spain. It is a reflection of her ongoing interest in Catalan identity, language, and literature. Here she returns to what I believe defines her signature style, the lyrical—moody, abstract imagery inspired by literature, cultural experience, and reflections on the natural world. The series marries language and visual art by scratching literary passages into the surface of the paintings, hand-cut local birch panels. To complete this testimonial, the dry pigments for these works were gathered from the actual fresco restoration of the abbey of the monastery.

An abstract painting with a Catalan inscription
Cynthia Grow, Amor Particular. Oil and graphite on panel, 60cm x 60 cm (Inscription: “and you have so often filled the emptiness of my words”)

Recording the Invisible, as well, is a series that utilizes text, and about important issues.

A painting of a woman in a negligee with an inscription on the side
Cynthia Grow, Myth. Oil and gesso on wood, 122″ x 82″

Unfortunately, the visuals are not as up to par as the language. I was pleased to discover this series was earlier work, as Grow now seems to have fine-tuned her quite resonate visual voice.

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