Her largest works in the show are stunning in size. Encountering watercolor paintings that stand taller than a human being is uncommon in this world. But that is the point. Her six-foot tall watercolors force one to stand back for a wider look yet draw the viewer close to see what else is going on within these organic forms.
Zanic must either possess a very broad brush or is able to sweep the flow of a watercolor glaze using other means. Her large paintings consist of washes fully one foot across that are drawn in washes similar in form to a Mobius strip. Infinity thus exists on paper. She uses this format to create space and then enhance it with wet-in-wet methods that suggest landscape or plant forms, woods or valleys.
Suggestively, these same shapes could well be the processes that invented and expanded the universe, and from within these massive forms come Zanic’s textural commentaries. Tiny drawn figures seem to vacillate between material forms and energy. Sometimes they appear to be forests emerging from the earth. At other times, they seem to convey a population of thoughts or recollections. This is what makes her work so pleasing, accessible and yet mysterious at the same time. To complete this journey from thought to form, she has also created a series of pottery pieces that bear the same conversational inscriptions.
Work like this enables viewers to get lost in very personal worlds of visual appeal and contemplation of the process that led to its creation. The title of the show Fluidity could be taken as a literal comment about a watercolor show. Yet there’s more to it than that, because every watercolorist knows that creating paintings is a process of both anticipation and happy mistakes. Every inch of surface becomes its own palette when watercolor flows across the surface. This becomes a conversation and some points even an intellectual argument in which delicacy and force of will are in constant engagement. The drips, runs and expansions all play a role in this universe created by a watercolor goddess.
Her special command of materials is best demonstrated in her ability to create tension and excitement through use of edges, which Zanic employs in work to define positive and negative shapes. In between she celebrates gauzy wonderment in the wet and marvelous world of water, pigment and paper.
Her works in the Origin series bear suggestions of geology or topography. Yet they could just as easily be considered in the context of space and time. One wonders if the physicists at Fermi have been wandering through this show considering the subatomic worlds they explore, which could very well be similar to the world of watercolor and the paintings of Ana Zanic.
It is high time that all of us come to grips with the fact that the world is not a “paint by number” place. Physics and evolution demand that knowledge. We also now know there is space between all matter, and dark matter beyond that. We even have the ability to shoot neutrinos through the earth. As it turns out, the pigment of our vision exists as much by force of imagination as it does in reality.
And Ana Zanic paints that space between. That is how (and why) the watercolors of Ana Zanic call us to consideration of all that we see. It may well be more realistic to depict the world in abstract terms than it is to attempt a direct copy of it. In this regard, the setting for the show Fluidity at Fermilab is perfect. It stands to expand your concept of the world and what you see around you.
The Fermilab Art Gallery is on the second floor of Wilson Hall. It is free and open to the public Monday to Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sign in a the Wilson Hall atrium reception desk. The show will be displayed through September 16.