Tiantian Ma, Tra(n)ce, curated by Gallery 40 (Poughkeepsie, NY)
May 3 – June 30, 2021
For those looking for a spiritual connection through art, look no further than the work of Tiantian Ma (she/her, b. China, 1997). Currently featured in “Tra(n)ce,” an online exhibition curated by Poughkeepsie’s Gallery 40, Ma’s work creates an ethereal experience using a visual language to communicate things impossible to describe using words alone. The show features 16 paintings that use varying combinations of oil and acrylic pouring medium on canvas and panel to create heavily textured dreamscapes. In many of the works, viewers will find a myriad of color packed into one square inch – evidence of the hefty amount of time spent by the artist making small, repetitive strokes to carefully adjust the work bit by bit until she’s satisfied. Often repeating her two favorite expressive elements, glowing light and the human form, Ma’s paintings could easily be representations of the spirit world, reality, or the overlap of both.
One piece, titled “Rambling”, (oil and acrylic, 16×20 in) shows two lavender-grey figures hand in hand, floating through blue skies with puffy, white clouds, luscious green trees with gnarled boughs below them. The figures and clouds are painted using acrylic pouring medium, rendering them much simpler and more opaque than the average subject in Ma’s work. The choice to make these figures and clouds so solid even though they are floating is an interesting one, as it risks making the figures feel heavy – especially when compared to other paintings in which the figures are transparent and more obviously spirit-like.
And yet, these subjects feel just as effortlessly light as all the others. The trees are painted with the busy brushstrokes more typical of Ma’s style, contrasting them further from the clouds and enhancing the calming presence emanating from the poured people drifting above. The combination of these media and techniques forms an image that feels like the personification of a comforting, strong summer breeze.
Another standout piece is “The Guardian”, (oil on canvas, 20×16 in) featuring a near-monochrome palette of greys with hints of pink and purple throughout. Kneeling in the center of the painting, there is the glowing lower half of a human figure partially clothed, hands together in prayer masking any clear face. To the right of the kneeling figure is the faint contour of another human form, this time fully nude, standing upright just beyond the glow.
Even without knowing the painting’s title, viewers can infer this standing figure is meant to be the kneeling form’s guardian. The way Ma has used the perfect minimalist touches of color and line to bring a sense of peace emphasizes the potential for an unseen hand resting on the praying figure’s back. Tiantian Ma’s work reminds viewers that there are unseen and unnamed forces at work in the universe, conspiring to support humanity at all times.
“Tra(n)ce” is available for viewing online at https://artspaces.kunstmatrix.com/en/exhibition/6158661/trance now through June 30, 2021. For more information about the artist, visit her website at matiantian.art. For more information about Gallery 40, visit their website at gallery40pk.com.
Review by Lauren Manning
Photo courtesy of Tiantian Ma