Angélica Turner: Her Turbulence

By Alicia McDaniel, Exhibitions Fellow

For the month of November, we are showcasing Studio Artist Angélica Turner’s new vigorous body of work in our Frank Ratchye Project Space. The power in the artist’s oil paintings lies within her variety of expressive brush strokes. From afar the viewer sees an intricate painting of delicate, colorful leaves with careful attention to details and formal elements such as light, contrast, and depth. As the viewer positions their body and eye closer the painting undergoes a transformation. The colors and strokes begin to blend into each other revealing a shift from a tightly rendered, representationalist painting into an abstract, expressionist work. 

Inspired by her encounters with the environment Turner photographs leaves, vines, tree branches, and other close ups of herbage that captivate her interest. Her desire to recreate these images through painting began with her visits to the Chilean Patagonia forests where she felt harmony and joy. Turner currently lives and works in San Francisco where she is continuing to evolve this admirable process.

Read more about the artist’s practice, background, and paintings in our interview below:

Turner’s palette and studio space at Root Division.

Alicia McDaniel (Exhibitions Fellow): I understand that your paintings have been informed by your personal experiences with nature, could you speak more about that? 

Angélica Turner (Studio Artist): Yes, I really like to hike, and my favorite places for that are in Patagonia. Being so far from everything, nature is pristine and wild. It is difficult to reach and its climate is hostile. The roads are of dirt, there are many parts that you can only cross by boat, the trails are poorly marked, and the camps are bare. Hiking the Patagonia forest is undoubtedly a privilege. A place where one can connect with natural elements, encouraging you to lose any connection with the rest of the world.

AM: Can you expand further on what specific sights and sensations from Patagonia have inspired your creative process?

AT: Patagonia’s vegetation is very dense and intensely green. The lakes are cold, but fresh and revitalizing during hot days. The rivers have the most delicious water of all, descending directly from glaciers. Volcanoes are a magnificent; a constant threat from the center of the earth, and when you climb them you find an impressive variety of landscapes. Experiencing Patagonia returns you to the simplicity of everyday life. My encounters with other people feel so small in comparison to the immensity of the mountains.. Patagonia takes you away from matters such as consumerism and instead teaches you to appreciate all natural senses. All that, is what I have in mind when painting.

AM: Where there any specific experiences that led to the creation of your current piece Her Turbulence?

Angélica Turner, detail of Her Turbulence, 2019, Oil on canvas

AT: As the title implies this painting is based on two different forms of turbulence. Firstly, I was inspired by a specific day at Tagua Tagua Park. The last time I traveled there, it was with my husband and we saw only five other people throughout the day. I recall the movement of the trees and ferns that appeared to be stretching, growing, and communicating as we passed between them. So much life within a world apart from mine. Secondly, it is also related to political turbulence, part of the cultural identity of my country. When I was finishing this painting, Chile fell into a very strong social crisis, which affected me deeply. The latest technical decisions of the painting are undoubtedly marred by the pain of seeing destruction, of being far away and holding fear of the uncertain. 

AM: I am curious about your titling in relation to what you just told me. Are you referring to a specific location in your decision to title the work with the pronoun “Her”? 

AT: Her is referential to Patagonia, but also to me. Tagua Tagua Park is a place that is never the same; it is constantly shifting. It is as ephemeral as life itself and we were in a spiritual tune. I constantly miss that place, and strive to discover a way to represent that day; this feeling of longing has guided me to create this painting. 

AM: Can you speak more on how you draw connections to spirituality within your work?

AT: Spirituality has to do with my search for connections with things greater than oneself. Nature is undoubtedly something that is beyond our understanding and provides us with the balance and harmony that is so easy to lose in the daily routine. Through painting, I am interested in incorporating some spiritual elements of nature, such as awe, the overwhelming, movement, what changes forever, the infinite … the idea of ​​feeling lost or disoriented, and at the same time in a known and balanced place.

Turner’s studio space at Root Division.

AM: Do you consider your work to be observational and narrative? 

AT: My work is very visual and includes a lot of literal representation of nature. But it is on the more narrative side where a specific story provides multiple interpretations that each viewer can give. I believe in this way, the viewer connects to the painting through emotional impact in opposition to the graphic, through sensations rather than descriptions. It’s very subjective.

AM: I am highly impressed with your expressive brush strokes, what led you to paint in this way? 

AT: I have always been super loose in my painting technique. The challenge in this painting was upholding continuity within my brushstrokes that are present within several of my previous paintings. A balance of graphic, detailed areas and of the more atmospheric, abstraction. There are areas that are built with a single gesture, whereas other areas have several layers of thick paint application. This variety speaks to the diversity present within the forest and in the climate; it has to do with what changes slowly and what, on the contrary, lasts only a few seconds. And, above all, I am very interested in the honesty of the “imperfect” and fast brushstrokes, as well as the presence of the background.

AM: Are there specific species of plants or vegetation that interest you to paint? 

AT: The types of plants I paint are just an initial reference that I use quite freely during the process. For my work, I am not interested in the species or function of each plant. But certainly, ferns are my favorites … and everything else that is closer to the forest floor.

AM: How has your process evolved since you have been here at Root Division?

Angélica Turner, Spiritual Ecosystem II, 2019, Oil on canvas

AT: Being at Root Division has given me the opportunity to work with an artistic community, with constant conversations with other artists. This exposure of my work and practice has allowed more constructive self-criticism and has challenged me in different ways. The space has also allowed me to return to the large scale format. In addition, there are many career development opportunities, which have had a lot of impact on my work.

AM: Do you have any other upcoming shows, projects, and/or events that you would like to mention?

AT: I currently have work in an exhibition at Scintilla Art Box Project, Nebraska, curated by Kiana Honarmand. I am looking forward to my trip back to Chile where I will be spending several days in Patagonia. This exciting return will allow me to obtain new perspectives for my pictorial research and future work.

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