Sunday, September 25, 2011

Neverne Covington @ HCC Ybor

HCC Ybor Gallery View, Neverne Covington
Neverne Covington's "A Hungry Attention" show at HCC Ybor Art Gallery showcases her focused imagination, technical fluency, and diversity. Yes, there are some things that aren't in the show, like some of the more graphic work involving animal figures in surreal landscapes, but what's there is very, very good and provides a survey of the breadth and depth of her work. Technically, she is at ease with many drawing media, oil, acrylic, encaustic, and printmaking ink on paper, canvas and panels. Her  work is a tour de force of processes. And there's the book-making, some involving rusty tin plates (hardback?), or small, visually and literarily poetic folding books, their pages zig-zagging like symmetrical lightning bolts on their pedestals. Confronting one feels like entering a revelatory maze.

Neverne Covington, "Arc of Transformation", detail

Read Neverne's prior reviews, press releases and artists' statements and the same terms keep cropping up: Objectivity and subjectivity. Things that Kurt Godel [Link] would have loved, like what is the Unknown? What can we know? Via which senses?  Sounds like epistemology. Making sense/order out of the world. Transience and Beauty. The Mystery of Nature, and landscape of memory. Mysticism. Control, spontaneity, intuition and wonder.  A fascination with flora and fauna that simultaneously includes and transcends botany/zoology.


Neverne Covington, "Stream Bed"

It is all true, and more. Her fascination with the natural world is in the form of a dialogue with it, and not just a pseudo-verbal conversation, but a mystical interaction, a holistic give and take, part of the result of which is the work. In landscape everything is interrelated -- even invisible but implied things outside the frame of the work. Visible forms are integrated, flowing seamlessly into one another, connected.

 In "Stream Bed", shown above, a 40x50" oil, we can see this. If one is familiar with this type of system, it is easy to imagine what lies just outside the frame from the cues the image provides. This is also an example of one of the more realistic works, but it is not the usual "pretty" conventional landscape. It has Beauty of a different kind. It is a detail of a specific and important part of it, and metaphorically, roots entering the stream, never the same place in the stream. Like so many things in life, motion is relative. Neverne gives us a glimpse beyond, by showing the reflections in the water of the edge of the canopy above, whose existence is owed to the water below, in part. Simultaneous levels of existence... we are all stream, root and canopy. The style is economical but ample for its purpose.

Neverne Covington, "Stood The Dreaming"

The work's aesthetic has as broad a range as the techniques used. It ranges from realistic (Ok, slightly hyperrreal) landscapes or plants to total abstractions, and everything that lies between those two endpoints. Neverne is equally at home at anywhere on that spectrum, which is remarkable. If all one saw was from one place in the spectrum, it would be easy to assume that's all she does. This range might result in work that seems scattered in other artists, but Ms. Covington is so very focused philosophically/thematically that it ties all this diversity together.

Neverne Covington, "The Hunger"

On the right is "The Hunger", A polymer plate intaglio [Link] with watercolor wash in an earthy quasi-sepia that the artist uses in different variations in other works. Life is iconized (in a spiritual sense) in the work. What the Chinese call "chi" [Link] is visually exploding in this print. that potency, tenacity, fecundity and more that is the mystery of the living is clearly evident here. The succulence of the organic forms, mandala composition, the spikes at their end, reaching out, and the way the shadows give the complex form a sense of ascendancy that adds to its force.

Neverne Covington, "Chassahowitzka"

Some of the works are of specific places, like "Chassahowitzka", the oil depicted on the left, a kayaker's/canoeists view. Realistic, but not obsessively so, the prominence of the dead palm that has fallen into the river, fallen, yet defiant and reaching for the once-sustaining light. The artist bears witness to these transformations, cycles and exchanges, literally and metaphorically. At the show, a young man came up and remarked that he knew just where that spot was on the river.

Neverne Covington, "Heartscape"

In the copper plate intaglio "Heartscape" , we see a very different kind of landscape, an inner one. A wasteland, strewn with rocks, arid, without anything growing in it, and a heart, exiled from its body, lies among the rocks. I think this is a key image to understanding Neverne's work. The tensions that everything that lives feels, the combination of ecstasies, pain, knowledge, mortality and the limits of what we can know are here. And the work becomes clearer. These are like a semi-silvered mirror that reflects and lets you see through it to the distant shore.

Then there are the books...they look like medieval altarpieces made of paper. Some, like the one here,, are folders, others are on rusted tin plates, proving that some times one can tell a book by its cover. These are exquisite objects in every way, word, image and materials unified into poetry. The small ones are also seductively intimate. They make the viewer feel like a piece of silk being drawn through a keyhole into a secret world within ourselves.

 Congratulations to Neverne Covington, Carolyn Kossar and HCC Ybor for a memorable show.

Hillsborough Community College's Art Gallery is located in the Performing Arts Building Room 114 on the Ybor City Campus located at 2204 N. 15th Street Tampa, FL 33605. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Tuesdays from 12 noon to 7 p.m. The gallery is open to the public, and admission is free for everyone. Click here for a map of the campus. For further information or to arrange special hours, contact Gallery Coordinator, Carolyn Kossar at  or 813-253-7674.

Make time for this one. It will be up through October 13th.

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