Richmond Art Center Statement

by Rachel Osajima

W hen viewing the artwork of Marianne Kolb, one is immediately struck by the intensity of her commitment to explore the visual power of the human figure. She conducts this exploration by combining only the most essential visual elements of the human form through the use of a refined pallet and a skillful often instinctual manipulation of the materials. The result of her unyielding search to capture and express what lies at the core of human emotion has resulted in a deeply moving and contemplative body of work.

Initially, the dark black background of each painting seems to represent a dangerous or forbidden place, such as a moonless night or a disturbing dream. Yet, the delicate manipulation of the surface with a suggestion of layered colors and textures and the overall sense of a soft velvet-like space, creates a comfortable darkness. A safe place to hide or rest, the darkness seems to offer a secure, private location where the figure can leave behind any past mistakes, regrets or lingering fears. It offers a method to strip away any unnecessary physical or emotional elements, encouraging the figure to travel out of the past and move forward into the present.

Each figure is expressed with a minimal amount of visual information. Clearly alone in each image, the figure alludes to many concepts such as solitude, independence, loneliness, spiritual leadership and the universal condition of humanity. The figure’s garment, which appears to represent a robe, is created with blacks and grays combined with a strong, vibrant red or yellow. This use of color suggests not a physical but an emotional condition. The figure’s overall shape, scale and body position imply movement and depth within the picture plane. Subtle visual clues such as facial characteristics and indications of emotion seem to encourage the viewer to look for specific associations to individuals within our own lives or memories. Upon further consideration, we realize the artist’s careful presentation of each ambiguous figure is an encouragement to move beyond the importance of the physical representation of the figure and to focus on what lies within the human psyche.

Marianne Kolb invites the viewer to not just look, but to become emotionally engaged with the work. Similar to the artist’s experience when creating each piece, the viewer must have a willingness to experience the work with an open, honest heart. If able to surrender to this delicate state, the viewer will sense the artist’s intention to capture and present a moment in which we experience a true state of beauty and sorrow found within the human soul.

Rachel Osajima is the Richmond Art Center Exhibitions Director