On the Wall: Vanessa Renwick

Jan 21, 2020

Filmmaker and visual artist Vanessa Renwick (of The Oregon Department of Kick Ass) presents Out There, a collection of large-scale archival pigment prints of her original paintings, at our downtown Portland cafe. These paintings were created during two residencies Renwick completed in the past year: one at Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon, and one at the Ucross Foundation in Ucross, Wyoming. The show opens on January 22nd, with a reception from 5pm-7pm.

Renwick painted these fluid, almost inkblot-like compositions using ink toner and water on Dura-Lar film, incorporating automatic techniques like decalcomania (creating intuitive and unpredictable forms and textures through pressure). These paintings were then drum scanned, blown up to epic proportions and printed on paper or silk — some as large as 4 x 8 feet.

Out There reflects the raw beauty of its subjects: the native wildlife of Wyoming’s high plains and eastern Oregon’s high desert. The forms of skulking wolves are based on actual wolves on the Umatilla Reservation, spotted in footage from trail cams. The animals are silhouetted in negative space, but their habitat lives inside them; their bodies contain textural indications of flowing waterways and craggy topography.

It also reflects Renwick’s fascination with nature’s ability to metaphorically represent the spiritual and emotional experiences of humans (those familiar with her short films will recognize this theme). One lithograph, disperse, was created at Crow’s Shadow with master printer Judith Bauman. This work is based on aerial photos of a wolf pack in Yellowstone. disperse views the wolves’ travel formation from above, tracing it as a psychic map of the spaces of transition that exist between birth, life, and death.

Renwick has been a singular voice in experimental cinema for 38 years. She describes her work as “all over the map,” both in terms of creating in multiple mediums and for multiple contexts, and of approaching it from an ethos of exploration and insatiable curiosity. Out There sees her experiment with painting in ways that connect to her lifelong interest in landscapes, borders, and transformations.

Out There is the first solo painting show by Renwick, who is the first 2020 recipient of the Stumptown Artist Fellowship. The exhibition is also funded in part by a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission and The Ford Family Foundation.