Women and Bundles

Essay from the catalogue for the exhibition entitled: "Women and Bundles" at Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art, Calgary, Alberta, 2000
By: Anne Severson, artist, curator, art critic and writer

The women in Teresa Posyniak's encaustic paintings have experienced life and they have come to terms with both their emotions and feelings as they have matured from these encounters. The honesty of the human-scale nudes invites transference between the viewer and the artist herself. Within the natural-coloured spaces, each woman's interaction with her subtle, yet brightly coloured bundle tells a different story. Like our own memories and experiences they are scattered, yet powerfully significant.

The paintings' loose and interpretive charcoal sketches reveal this artist's love of drawing. Following the history of figurative art, Posyniak works directly from the live model as she intuitively drafts minimal lines quickly onto the stretched linen. Each mark has a deliberate meaning. She feels the energy in her fingertips "telling a story". While this artist's eyes and drawing tool trace the edge of the body, she finds herself "connecting, identifying with the figure and with my own personal self. Yet these figures are universal, revealing aspects of self."

Posyniak proceeds to layer the stretched linen by brushing on the demanding encaustic medium of hot wax mixed with dried pigments and linseed oil. The formidable act of painting with encaustic begins with a 2,000 year-old history journeying back to ancient Egypt and Byzantine icons. In the 18th century, there was a struggling revival in Neo-classicism with Sir Joshua Reynolds and Josiah Wedgwood. This carried into 19th century romanticism of Delacroix, Burne-Jones and even with the post-impressionist Gauguin in his "Vision After the Sermon" (1888). During the 20th century, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted with this arduous encaustic medium on his wall painting, "Creation" (1923). A more lasting encaustic revival started recently in the 1950s when Jasper Johns revolutionized its possibilities on stretched canvas as in "Flag"(1955) and "White Numbers" (1959). During the 1960s and 70s artists such as Brice Marden and Lynda Benglis continued to labour with its challenges and rewards. Today the unique qualities of the encaustic medium continue in Posyniak's art.

The demanding, rigorous and trying encaustic process starts with brushing the hot, melted wax over the canvas. Over the years, Posyniak's perceptive sensitivity to materials has taught her to respect the unpredictable nature of encaustic. She accepts that she is continuously growing, discovering and trying to understand her relationship with this process that is challenging, yet uncertain, uncompromising, but ultimately rewarding with its exquisite vitreous surface.

Over and over, she repeatedly dips her paintbrush into the heating wax, then drags it selectively over the surface. After carefully creating uneven strata of pigmented wax, these layers are then thoughtfully scraped down to the raw stained linen, reglazed with more layers of warm wax, then burned in with heat. The uneven textural surface is enriched with the repeated layering and unlayering of transparent hot wax that brings forth a hard-won glowing, deep intensity that is integral to the life-surface of these female figures. The eyes of the viewers can almost feel the textural topography of the raw linen covered brushstrokes and random traces of separate drips.

As an exploratory sculptor, and now figure-painter, Posyniak has exhibited extensively throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan. Her work is included in major public collections such as Alberta Foundation for the Arts, City of Calgary Civic Art Collection and many other corporate and private collections. Awards from Canada Council, Alberta Foundation for the Arts and others recognize Posyniak as an independent achiever. Through her interaction with the Calgary art community for over 20 years, Posyniak has evolved into an arts-activist role model through her mentoring and exchange of ideas as a teacher, guest artist and curator.