Dolby Chadwick Gallery is delighted to announce Big Islands, an exhibition of new work by Jennifer Pochinski.
Pochinski’s vibrant oil paintings extend the traditions of early twentieth-century painting by boldly exploring rhythms of space and the expressive potential of color and form. In these newest works, she sets human figures into lush natural environments redolent of the tropics: mineral-rich earth, brilliant sky, and crystalline water.
It was in hindsight, Pochinski explains, that she realized that these landscapes were of Hawaii, the place where she grew up. A location in one painting is reminiscent of Oahu’s Sandy Beach, while another resembles the Koolau Mountain Range. It was an epiphany she had during a trip back home in October 2020. Shortly after her plane landed, she went to the beach, put down her towel, and jumped into the ocean. “I floated there. I couldn’t hear the outside world, just the earth and the ocean. It really hit me.” Hawaii had been on the periphery of her focus as an artist, but as she drifted among the waves, “the quietness, the closing out of the world, centered me. I went inward and everything seemed to dissolve. That visit helped me embrace who I am.”
Pochinski works from photographs that she culls from all over, from social media feeds to movies, building a cache of personal imagery that she recycles again and again.Her process, however, is driven more by the materiality of paint than by the image itself. "I tend to look at everything very abstractly; even if the imagery is really charged, I'm still looking at the surface of the paint." She prefers her canvases to be heavily layered and, in her words, “chewed over.”
She notes that her figures are “presentational” in much the same way that they are in the works of Peter Doig and Markus Lüpertz, wherein the body provides a base around which a context is built. Indeed, Pochinski’s figures and forms are even interwoven. In Building a Boat (2021), for instance, the male figure’s left forearm seems to be absorbed into the distant hills, while black and green hints of this same landscape push through the flesh of his back. Everything ties together—both the image and the paint—so that the richness of the individual layers and junctures results in a painting that has an immediate impact while also existing as “a long, slow moment in time.”
Post-Impressionism and the art of the early twentieth century are also clear starting points for Pochinksi. Like many of those artists, she breaks down her impressions of the world and reconstructs them as a patchwork of color and form. Her bold palette, in particular, reveals a strong kinship with Post-Impressionism, specifically Fauvism. She explains that as a female, and because of her upbringing, her “natural inclination would be to be polite, to make color choices that are acceptable, so that people might recognize the image.” But colors that are “too passive and crowd-pleasing don’t feel right,” prompting her to go back in and push herself toward expressive freedom, just as Matisse and Derain did; “you need to scare yourself,” is the sage advice she once received from venerated Sacramento artist Jack Ogden. In Moonlit Surfer (2020), for instance, she punches up “traditional” flesh tones with radiant violets and magentas to unlock something deep-seated and boldly honest in the painting.
There is something deeply introspective and contemplative about Pochinski’s subjects, who have an air of everyday mystery about them: a lone nude encounters an abandoned boat, a couple quietly wades through shallow waters, a triad gracefully floats in a tranquil tide. “If there’s a truth to a painting, you can recognize it from a mile away. There has to be some kernel of truth for people to connect with it,” the artist explains. Pochinski’s truth is predicated on her deep authenticity as a painter. She seeks out rather than shies away from unexplored territory, tension, or a turn inward, setting the stakes even higher by composing her figures in a way that urges us to solve the quiet enigmas of their worlds.
Jennifer Pochinski was born in 1968, in Detroit, and earned a BFA from the University of Hawaii in 1991. She has exhibited in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London, and has been featured in publications such as the Paris Review and the Huffington Post. This is her first solo exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery.