Annie Clavel is an artist who inhabits Parallel Universes. The name of a new series of her paintings, the title is also an apt description of her philosophy of life and her art.
Clavel is a mathematician as well as a painter, and her work reveals both a precise, mathematical balance and a preference for abstraction as she depicts a world driven by quantum mechanics and minute particles.
Her mixed media on canvas paintings combine a variety of nuanced colors, refined brush strokes, and alternating textures. According to the artist, this approach represents “the variety of parallel universes with particles, photons, and waves.” Clavel sees one particle as being in two locations at the same time in the quantum universe, an idea which led her to create this series. In a number of paintings, creepers serve as links between each universe, and square, opaque windows reveal only blank faces between worlds.
In Three Xs in a Red Soup, the clearly defined yellow x’s seem to emerge like living beings from a miasma of swirls and tiny, almost floral dots. Smaller, less defined red x’s appear to soar along a clear, pale yellow path, aiming for some place beyond the red world. Green shapes that look amphibian in nature cruise through what could be openings into a different space. The viewer feels almost pulled into this painting as if by the power of some centrifugal force.
Cool whites and blues dominate Photons in the Blue, where a blue square to the center right of the piece pulls the eye. It’s the aesthetic heart of the painting, with small white and yellow shapes inside that could be figures looking out at another world rushing by. While vertical lines predominate throughout the rest of the painting, there is also what could be a Munch-like visage in white traveling through the upper left of the canvas.
And in Connecting Universes, the gold and yellow dominant swirls are clearly delineated by curves and brush strokes of red. Two separate red sections appear about to intertwine, amoeba like – and while these rudimentary life forms are certainly brought to mind, their uncoiling touch points also evoke an entirely different image, that of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, that Sistine Chapel image of God and Adam touching gone abstract.
In Matter & Antimatter, Clavel’s art takes on an almost purely floral quality. Like purple iris, colorful blooms erupt on either side of a vast, white rift. These shapes are fluid, in motion. Much of Clavel’s works in this series depict an unknowable movement.
So what do these universes, these particles, their shifting and flow, mean? The viewer is left to explore what these implosions of color and form shape within his or her own mind, but the overall effect when studying Clavel’s work is to enter exquisite, imaginative, and completely foreign territory. The artist was born in Toulouse, France and lived in France, Germany, and Tunisia before moving to Southern California in 2006. In one way, the works may re-imagine the artist’s immigration from France to the U.S.; in another they are creating a mix of multiple planets, multiple horizons. A hundred sunsets swirl on the head of a pin and flow outward onto Clavel’s canvasses.
The joy in Clavel’s work is its careful interlacing of color and form, a collision of shapes, an almost three dimensional pull that requires the viewer to do what the artist describes herself as achieving – taking “a step into the unknown.”
Clavel began this journey when she was studying mathematics, visually imagining the concepts she studied in colorful forms. She began by painting representational works in water color and acrylic. Her current abstract work is based on exploring colors, shapes, light, and movement, and how each of these elements form relationships with each other. “I let my instinct and intuition guide my work to capture the magic of the moment,” she says.
Seeking to express what she feels about the world around her, and her own existence, Clavel in some respects shapes not only parallel universes between worlds, particles, and space, but the parallels that exist inside every person, between dark and light, happy and sad, past and present. If we can exist in spacial terms on a variety of planes, then, perhaps we also exist on different planes of emotion and intent.
“I tend to create works that express what I’m feeling about the world and my existence, about mathematics and life, abstraction and representation,” Clavel says.
Clavel has painted for over 25 years. Recent exhibition have included the group show Chaos Theory 2 at OCCCA in Santa Ana, Bugs, Fishes & Birds at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, and juried shows at the Palos Verdes Art Center, Tang Gallery in Bisbee, Ariz., and at the AES Power Plant in Redondo Beach.
“Life is a series of steps that you decide or that you put up with,” Clavel says. Through her Parallel Universes series, those steps may lead both the artist and the viewer into vast and unknown realms, whose magnificence unfolds with an unerring grace on canvas.
- Genie Davis; Photos: Annie Clavel