Bernadette Jiyong Frank - Refraction of Light
Folly & Muse
Artist: Bernadette Jiyong Frank
Medium: Oil Paint, Resin
Size: 76 x 61 cm
At the heart of each of Frank’s paintings is the Japanese concept of Ma, which is the space or pause between events, moments, forms, and thoughts. It can be felt, for example, at the bottom of a bow or in the silences that are common in Japanese conversation. These ostensibly empty intervals are in fact full—of energy, meaning, or agreement. Ma is also central to many Japanese art forms, including ikebana (flower arranging) and Noh theater. It likewise serves as the basis for Frank’s paintings, which are built up from hundreds of layers of paint. But rather than the layers themselves, it is the space in between the layers, Frank notes, that gives the works their depth and allows them to be experienced both visually and viscerally. The final paintings produce a sense of transcendence, asking us to consider how the edges of our lives—those areas adjacent to wherever we are, physically or emotionally—might be charged with an energy, potentiality, or resonance.
Frank’s Spaces in Between series features precise forms that fan open and close, like the scattered beams of searchlights as they whirl and rake through the sky. These beams are often concentrated in the center of the compositions, where they intersect to create hourglass-like shapes. Other times, their arrangement is more diffuse, crisscrossing in elegant patterns of syncopation that result in crystalline structures. Her series Refraction uses light in a similar way, though to different ends. Frank explores refractivity in these works, using her own language to capture the optical play of light rays deflecting and transforming as they interact with their environment. The remarkable depth conjured by paintings from both series is a product of their inherent Ma, which Frank achieves through her rigorous and time-consuming process. Each layer represents a single day, as Frank has to allow the medium to dry between applications. By emphasizing deep, ponderous blues, greens, and purples, her color palette aids the contemplative, almost mysterious mood unleashed by what can be viewed as renderings of time.