special edition

Petra Eiko: Light Motif

Like the metaphysical offspring of Gustave Klimt and Larry Bell, Petra Eiko’s plexiglas-based sculptural paintings are part Light & Space, part spirited bohemianism, part scientific inquiry, and part elaborately beautiful poetics. She reverse paints on flat, concave, or convex planes of plexiglas, in a deliberate materialism for wall and floor. Its reflective qualities lend surfaces the illuminated watery movement of varnish, familiar from art history and from modern architecture. In fact she trained professionally in that field. Though she had long painted for personal satisfaction, her apprenticeship gave her an appreciation for clean lines and a familiarity with plexi and other non-traditional materials whose effects she studied at work and thought more about at home.

Eiko is pleased and challenged by her signature material’s counterintuitive post-industrial delicacy -- which she perceives to optically and energetically unite feminine and masculine qualities into itself, especially once it’s been transformed by Eiko’s emotional, raw, organically abstract painting. This element of her composition counterbalances, both employing and subverting the transparent perfection of the plexi with its fractal embellishments. “Total perfection is not the goal,” she remarks. “After all, is anything perfect in this world? Or in this life?” This in her view is the essential magic of life, given material expression.

“Art translates hidden secrets into tangible forms,” says Eiko. She means secrets about the underlying structure of the universe -- atoms, neutrinos, quarks. But she prefers to express this macro/micro prose poem in direct visual language, as with the dissipating illusion pieces, by showing rather than telling. “I like to watch people in front of them get physically engaged, to see that moment where they ‘get it.’ Because of the reflective properties of paint-backed plexi, one sees oneself in the work as one contemplates it. The architectural surroundings are reflected too, and it is only at that moment of reflection when the artist considers them finished. Their contextualization, in Eiko’s eyes, “makes the collectors the final collaborators. I do believe it’s not really done until they place it. You live in the piece,” she says. “The piece is alive, and every new moment makes it new again.” That’s kind of like life, too.

- Shana Nys Dambrot - Art Critic