Chica Brunsvold’s Zooillogicals ® are exuberant paintings of animals illogically coexisting in the dreamlike jungle of Brunsvold’s imagination. Big and small cats, birds of every kind, snakes, elephants, and other creatures crowd Brunsvold’s exuberant canvases, brightly occupying every ground or lurking in the negative spaces of her intuitively imagined compositions. With a vivid tonality inspired by Gaugin’s vision of the tropics, Brunsvold’s creations bypass reason and communicate—by colorful composition--directly to feeling.
Chica Brunsvold’s manner of envisioning menageries from textures creates a whimsical, ideal fantasy of a peaceable kingdom, with metaphorical commentary on the human condition. In Birdlam, an array of birds hatches from a bountiful nest in bewildering profusion. In Enchanted Evening, a large black cat nearly embodies a night in which other cats symbolically bear birds on their backs as in a rite of moon worship. In Waiting II cats and birds again congregate, with the cats appearing to watch over the cranes. Chit Chat and Limbo feature exuberant and crowded congregations of bird species ranging from cranes to toucans. Each of Brunsvold’s works is characterized by a different dramatic energy, derived from the membership and number of the grouping.
Brunsvold’s Zooillogicals® are the outcome of an evolution in the artist’s work from abstraction to surrealism. Originally an abstract expressionist, Brunsvold always had the ability to perceive whimsical animals, in the texture or facture of her canvases. Working within an abstract orthodoxy, however, and fearing that her work would not be taken seriously in the academic context, Brunsvold repressed her facility for drawing forth secondary images from textured surfaces for years. Finally, in 1994, Brunsvold decided to explore her instinctive ability to “see things” in her preexisting work, and let the hidden images of animals come out. Since that point, Brunsvold has devoted herself almost entirely and joyfully to the “animalscapes” that she sees in prepared textured surfaces.
Brunsvold starts each canvas or work on paper in the Zooillogicals® series by coating the surface with a gloss acrylic medium, then, in sequence, placing thin layers of acrylic yellow, red, and blue. Each time a layer is applied, Brunsvold lets the color run and drip then blots it or scrapes at it, and also may treat it with isopropyl alcohol, to give the layer a mottled or textured surface. Once Brunsvold arrives at the third layer, she lives with the resulting purely polychromatic nonobjective result for a time, in order to elicit visionary compositions of animals. She turns the canvas upside down, and on its side, she carries it around the house, she even considers it in different light, even in muted pre-dawn light. By this intensive meditative process Brunsvold gradually discerns not only animal figures individually but arrangements of them so inspired in their complexity only a vision arising directly from the texture of the ground can account for their originality.
The art critic Jude Schwendenwein has remarked, “Brunsvold’s “animalscapes” occupy an undefined space similar to the ambiguous environments of our dreams, ripe with possibilities for unforgettable encounters.” Brunsvold herself believes her paintings “elicit a primal response, an immediate reaction.” She then encourages viewers to search for hidden elements in her art in order to restore a sense of innocence to their way of looking at the world.
Winsome, humorous, frolicking beasts and birds are the subject of Chica Brunsvold’s Zooillogicals®. This series of recent paintings celebrates a peaceable kingdom where elephant and ostrich, big cat and alligator live in remarkable contentment. Brunsvold’s painted world exists both as a fantasy equally appealing to children and adults, and as a pictorial experience of moving forms and vivid color.
Chica Brunsvold’s creatures are a gregariously social lot, living cheek by jowl, as if too much distance would leave them bereft and lonely. So they gather in great conglomerates of species, playfully intertwining and perching one upon the other. Notions of territoriality and of as nature as “red in tooth and claw” are banished from this ideal place. The cooperation and altruism that socio-biologists see at work in the animal world are the rule. The creatures’ sole intent seems to be creating the maximum visual pleasure their communal display can provide.
Painted with an exuberant directness, Brunsvold’s animals do nature one better by assuming new, fantastic colorations. The light blue possum, the violet dinosaur, the crimson cat seem perfectly plausible here. And birds of a myriad of species, known and unknown, flock together in a riot of hues. Bold, graphic representations mingle with more delicate jewel-toned subjects. There is a strong emphasis on rhythmic movement of the animals curvilinear forms, giving the paintings a buoyant, joyous quality.
Dense menageries in aqua, magenta, hot pink and orange pile us against solid backgrounds of deep blue and black. We have arrived in an abstract, non-specific space, where the vagaries of weather and the passage of time hold no sway. The animal Eden depicted here reminds us that behind every fantasy is an unspoken desire. Implied in the world made visible here seems to be the hope for a harmony that these animals’ human counterparts can only envy.
- John Mendelsohn
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