We've often wondered if encaustic painter Susan Squires is a secret alchemist. By the sheer nature of her medium, she is. Encaustic is a painting technique in which the artist uses dyes, beeswax and heat to create layers of imagery and color. Circling, Squires' latest solo show at 1point618 gallery, seems to beckon us into an underground world, which makes the works such fun to look at.
Take the painting titled "Everything Is Transformed," one of the few pieces that are not circle-centric — at least not in the literal sense. Taking pages from a 1970s electrical engineering journal that she found at a flea market in Rome, Squires created an artwork that is mystical as the language it was written in. "As I covered the pages with hot encaustic, the opposite side began to show through with images and writing. I really liked the shapes that appeared," she states. The painting is augmented with black forms that reflect some of the shapes within the journal. It's a fascinating piece. "I was collaborating with 'm.f.', the Italian journalist, who was such an exquisite draftsperson. I like the idea that the strong black forms draw the viewer in so that they can appreciate the nuances and beautiful drawings that inhabit the pages."
"Solstice" hugs us with the sumptuous warmth of hot red and flaming tangerine despite the looming storm at the top of the painting. Scoring into the wax, Squires creates a solar map that is balanced with muted gray latitudes and longitudes, giving the illusion of dynamism as well as stasis.
In a series of paintings that, on the surface, are very different from one another visually, "Circling Study" (#1 through #5) is based on the Cleveland Coast Guard Station. "I spent many summer hours with my grandson and granddaughter, who sail and race out of the Coast Guard Station. I am particularly interested in the architecture, the rounded and rectangular forms together, the white of the buildings, the atmosphere at different times of day and evening and the layout of the buildings on the land juxtaposed with the water," reveals Squires. "I printed the plans from a site online and used the Xerox printouts as a substrate for three of the works: '#1,' '#3' and '#5' (which is pictured above). Painting '#2' uses photographs of the interior of the main building, which, at the time, was in total disrepair, rusty and peeling."
"Circling Study #2" continues with the warm palette, but also hints at the rust and peeling she references above. The photograph Squires embedded into the painting is a haunting and almost looks like it's underwater.
Squires reaches within the box structure and excavates full on, circular works such as "Sound of Silence," "Three Circles" and "Naples Encounter," to name a few. These paintings are developed directly on thick discs of wood. Somehow, they posit a kind of legerity despite their size.
Finally, "My Father's Machine" is based on an invention by Squires' father. "In the late '40s, my father patented a card-sorting machine," Squires says. Having found the exact patent online, she used the photocopies as the basis for the series of paintings. "In '#3,' his drawings are visible. In '#2,' the underlying images are mostly hidden. In '#4,' I connected several of the round gears to form the "linear configuration" which resides on the surface." The result seems to tie in with the previously mentioned, "Everything is Transformed."
What I enjoyed most about this exhibition is how it relieved me from having to go through the gallery in a linear sense. I bounced around from painting to painting, upstairs and down, to try and find hidden messages or secrets. I truly related to this excerpt from the artist's statement: "I am a stranger exploring these sacred places, places of architecture and byzantine frescoes, Cosmatesque floors, and landscape space, of science and geometry, of growing things."