The Ambiguous and Organic Abstract Paintings of Madeline Mikolon

If a brushstroke cannot be erased or covered, then each that comes after is an addition, a readjustment, a response.

Madeline Mikolon, an artist from Missoula, builds her abstract paintings with an organic palette, movement by movement, on the unforgiving support of paper.

After moving here, his paintings referred to the landscape indirectly, with titles like “Ravine”. The connection is looser now and she prefers people to read the work as they wish.

“I really like this idea of ​​suggestion, of guessing, of getting caught up in something but not being able to put my finger on why,” she said. “I think they take on their own personality.”

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They have enough visual information that they can “change over time and with different views,” she said.

Mikolon is showcasing new work through the end of December at Smithblack Furniture, an upscale boutique located in the 2000 block of South Higgins Avenue.

Nora Van Stelten, the shop’s co-owner, studied art at university and presents solo exhibitions when the opportunity arises. People can see the work in a home environment. From a design point of view, she thinks it would be strange to have a shop with well-designed furniture on the floor and mass-produced “faux” art on the walls.

building blocks of Mikolon’s work are puddles of watery organic color, overlapping and accentuating each other. Threading their borders, accenting, and intersecting are well-rendered lines. Some waver and move forward seemingly of their own volition, like a river drawn on a map.

Mikolon’s more recent pieces show a shift in surface from canvas and wood panel to paper.

Mikolon completed the last two years of high school at a boarding school that had formal art classes, then enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The first year of the foundation courses was rigorous and she quickly began to move towards abstraction. After living in New York for a long time, she moved to Missoula.

In college, she was influenced by Bauhaus artists, with exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art. Ernesto Caivano, a Spanish artist based in New York, captivated her. She closely follows an Australian artist, Adam Lee, she says. Things she sees in museums or stumbles upon while traveling might inspire her.

“These ongoing conversations about art have had more impact for me,” she said.

Paper has many virtues, but one of its qualities is transformative: once a mark is made, it cannot be erased, covered up and obscured. Instead, she approaches composition in a step-by-step fashion: marks are made, then adjustments. Additions but not replacements, a problem-solving process.

“You can always change it by adding more brands, changing the brand, making it bigger. I like to work with what I have and build on it,” she said.

The pieces begin with a few marks in acrylic, ink, gesso, mixed inks, watercolor wash.

Ombre, pale cyan and translucent grays come together in some pieces, almost looking like macro photographs. The water will stay within the limits it has set in advance. In some of the works, straight lines, full or implied, contrast with more organic shapes.

Either way, they leave a lot to the viewer.

“I am interested in the associations that occur, whether it is a space, a landscape or an object, or even feelings, something that happened, a memory “, she said.

“I’m always interested in landscape and organic form in general – rocks, plants, light,” she said. Natural shapes also tend to involve the viewer a lot.

“If you look at an organic shape, like say a rock, up close they tend to start mimicking landscapes,” she said.

She has noticed that her palette changes with the seasons, and this work, done mostly in spring and summer, is heavy on yellows and greens, in a way that seems directly connected to the natural world.

A piece called “Bramble/Reeds” hangs above a bed. A large horizontal piece, which she thought was somewhat “explosive”, although the effect was not expressively violent like the typical brushstrokes of abstract expressionist painting. The darker shades are spaced out throughout, but they’re not true black. She loves dark browns or other tones and the effect they can have.

“Even adding a purple or a blue can really change his personality,” she said.

“There’s definitely that balance in making this stuff,” she said. “Things can get too overwhelming and you balance them out.”

A work in progress can “blow up again, and you put the brakes on it,” she said. “It’s kind of a conversation between the two.”

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