Lola did not study art in school, but she sees this absence of classical training as an advantage to her creative process, as it allowed her to take an experimental approach that eventually led to a wholly unique way of creating art. Without being tied to traditional materials or techniques, she has been experimenting for more than two decades with poured resin as a way to create compositions that negotiate a space between total materiality and light. Like many other artists, Lola first used clear resin to add a glossy finish to her collages and paintings. Over time, the paintings disappeared, and the pigments (in this case dyes) entered the resin. The resin itself become the artwork, taking center stage, and holding the colors and forms in its own body.
Resin work is not for the faint of heart. It involves chemicals, catalytic reactions, masks, ventilators, blow torches, and a more or less sterile environment (free of dust, pet hair, or bugs that can get trapped in it before it solidifies). It is also best supported by a strong wooden panel, which means that, with each added layer, the work becomes heavier and harder to move. Another challenge with the medium is that it changes from moment to moment as the liquid gradually transforms into a solid. As the resin thickens, it can be coaxed and manipulated; spread out, or held in. Timing is critical. To make hard-edged forms, each color has to be tended until the form is more or less stable. Then it needs to be left alone to set before the next color can be added. By the time an artwork is finished, one piece might have up to fifteen different “pours” built up over the course of days or weeks.
Lola’s approach is therefore a dance between two extremes; with intention, control, and perfectionism on the one hand, and spontaneous, surprising outcomes led by intuition on the other. The artist writes:
I begin each piece by choosing the colors I will work with. The colors reflect a feeling but can also impact my emotional state. As I pour, a form begins to appear on the surface and a dialogue begins. The forms speak to me and guide me to create their shape. I start a process of working with the shape as it spreads. This process can take several hours as I alter the edges by wiping the resin, making sure the lines are right. I am a perfectionist, and I know if a shape or the overall composition is working out.
There is an unspoken language between the forms in a piece one I cannot hear but instead feel. One might say that the surface on which I work is like a stage, and the colorful shapes are like characters in a play acting out a drama. They each have a personality and a trajectory. They interact and engage with one another, as if they were people having conversations, arguments, or making love. It is wonderful to watch!
I am always learning as I go. This is exciting to me. It is a part of my love of experimenting. What will happen next? How will I respond? It is collaborating with the materials, and learning what the materials are revealing to me. There is a speed and a direction in the work. This keeps me focused and occupied. I am always pushing myself, and I find this can be both calming and exhilarating.
Lola’s interest in abstraction was sparked after a visit to a Kandinsky exhibition many years ago in New York, when she realized that color and form alone could carry a work. With their floating forms that are barely distinguishable from the atmospheric ground that surrounds them, some of Lola’s color field pieces nod to Rothko’s influence as well. In contrast, here opaque hard-edge compositions reference Ellsworth Kelly, whose work she has spent time with at the Anderson Collection museum at Stanford.
Lola’s style is both minimal and maximal, but always formal, focusing on the emotional power of color and shape. While she has her own thoughts and feelings about each piece, she also wants to leave the door open for viewers to experience the power of abstract art that makes no reference to the everyday world. Both her seriousness and her sense of humor come through as she explains this:
At one point, earlier in my artistic career, I would often use letters and numbers in my collages. I would cover very large surfaces with them. People would always try to read or decode them. They believed that these pieces contained some kind of hidden message or secret meaning that had to be figured out. They didn’t understand that I was seeing the letters as pure form. I loved their shapes, lines and colors. Sometimes people will do the same thing with the abstractions. They look at a piece for a while and say something like, “Wait a minute. I think I see a chicken. Is that a chicken?” No. There’s no chicken in my work. Please don’t go looking for a chicken.
– Danielle Fox, Co-Director, SLATE contemporary gallery, Oakland, 2017