by Bill Lasarow
(TAG [The Artists Gallery], Santa Monica) Fractured narratives play out against landscape backdrops in Anne Ramis new series of paintings, presented together as Fantasies of Harmony. The undulating folds of a mountain range, observed in some works at a distance, in others pressed towards the foreground, set up the primary compositional rhythms. Animals and figures--a multi-cultural and temporal potpourri of them--occupy the flatlands. Mostly they are self-absorbed, and Ramis' distortions of scale and cropping reinforce the general impression of isolated activity. Figures, as a result, read as icons or are engaged in ritualistic acts, or simply withdraw into their personal musings. One gets a feeling of purveying symbolic references, but there is an equal temptation to reflect on a deeper relationship among these pieces that will draw them all together.
Among the most active compositions, Civil Living includes such vignettes as a Buddah astride an elephant, an Indian goddess performing some sort of magic on a dancing polar bear, and an ancient Egyptian dancing with a snake (little pyramids are visible in what reads as the far distance). The branches of a leafless tree occupy the close foreground, while a small surrogate for the viewer soars under his own power above it all. The earth red hills in the distance cast sharp early morning/twilight shadows, yet the figures prancing in the flatland cast none.
This is equally the case in Nocturne, where a dog, girl skipping rope, and a woman strumming her harp are presented in a diffused light that separates them from the dramatically highlighted peaks and full moon behind them. The artist's brushwork, in the foreground surrounding the three figures ,tries to wriggle its way into some sort of animated life form.
The shepard dog of the previous painting turns its back on us in order to, apparently, observe the girl. In Ancient Spirits the animal turns to face us directly, along with three other dogs (the artist's pets). A tiny woman occupies the lower foreground, posed with right arm outstretched, while a block of what might be Egyptian heiroglyphics suggests that Ramis thinks of canines in the same way the Egyptians regarded felines.
If Ojai Detail is a departure, the landscape universe is still one with the main body of work. Here she takes time to examine a stand of cactus and rocks living at the base of the same hills. Not quite a study, it reveals her approach to paint handling. She tends to pack in an array of marks and colors to define forms, placing them against earthtones that are hardly flat or monochromatic themselves. The contrasts are strong, the atmosphere is crystalline clear, and the eye has just got to jump around a lot. Ramis is on less certain ground with linework that feels its way onto and around figures and mountainsides, but not always efficiently or convincingly.
"Places I've Been," clocks/light
|These are essentially theatrical set pieces in which a shorthand version of the L.A. Basin is the stage. Ramis conveys a rich sense of reference that, allows us to believe that what applies to a culture or a species may carry fresh new meaning when examined in a new tapestry. The cobbling together of these pieces into a kind of grand tapestry appears to be precisely the ambition of this artist. Ramis presents the stage and a stream of stories, and much of this should earn your attention and reflection. But the full story is yet to be told.|