Portland based Artist Samantha Wall makes haunting, ethereal, figurative pieces of flowing ink and virtuosic brushwork. Although painterly, these are drawings dealing in swirling grays and blacks with occasional bursts of gold. The darkly drawn figures on minimal white backgrounds offer us space to reflect on, empathize, and make new connections with the bodies depicted.
Wall's 2018 exhibition, Phantom Limbs at Russo Lee Gallery, featured a sprawling installation of two rows of drawings of outstretched arms on transparent sheets of Dura-Lar. The arms are unsettlingly elongated, longing, yearning for something unseen. This work was made in response to devastating grief following the death of Samantha's sister. "As I was making the work," she says, "there was a growing sensation of her presence, but then this conflicting knowledge of her absence." She relates this paradox of presence and absence to the sensation of Phantom Limbs.
A Prayer to Dispel Restless Spirits is a series of works in which a crouched figure with golden hands seems to perform a ritual prayer. Here the ink flows through the figure like energy or spirit and the hands act as conduits to the otherworldly. We can feel the anguish of the figure in these laborious, crouched poses.
In Fist (1/20/17) we see a single left hand, clenched into a fist and lifted straight into the air— a symbol long associated with dissent, resistance, and protest. This piece is part of her larger project, 31 Days, a daily drawing mantra performed every day during the month of January and December 2017. That January was an especially dark month, historically speaking, and drawing a fist each day that month helps show that resistance is not found in a tweet or a protest, but in sustained daily practice.
If you are traveling through Portland, you can see"In the Wake" will hanging in Concourse D at the PDX Airport through March 2020. And be sure to follow along on Instagram @samanthawall