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Marina Moevs’ breathtaking oil paintings present the often awe inspiring beauty of powerful natural events, such as floods, fires and storms. Seductively serene, they resonate with psychologically volatile meanings and metaphors, not only personally for the artist, but as collective archetypes that speak for humanity as a whole. Indeed, just as psychoanalytic discourse equates the unconscious with nature itself (from which the idea of “human nature” evolved), Moevs’ paintings employ natural imagery to express the autonomy and subjectivity of human moods. They also stand as brilliantly crafted and imagined “shrines” that both associate and segregate human beings’ and nature’s mysteriously linked creativity.
In a painting simply titled The Woods, for example, Moevs places you at the entrance of a seductive and slightly frightening forest at night, as if they were contemplating the scene from behind the window of a house outside of the picture frame. The lines of Robert Frost’s well-know poem “The woods are lovely dark and deep,” spring to mind as Moevs’ work guides the viewer’s eyes into a labyrinth nascent with ripening danger, adventure and emotion. The painting reminds us that entering our own darkness requires courage and character, as in any Dante-like journey we are required to muster these very virtues.
The element of human devastation is everywhere in these works, as floods cover houses, a fire-line across an idyllic field threatens to encroach upon (an implied) nearby farm house or a village. In one Flood painting , the two faint dividing lines of a submerged highway angle across the picture frame and down into the water like a mere specter of what existed there before. That the imagery is rendered with such soft elegance only heightens the degree of tension inherent in the narratives these pictures explicitly depict or imply. Furthermore, there is an eerie and calming kind of democratization here as well, as nature’s sprawling “march” engulfs everything in its path with an equal and indiscriminate embrace.
Moevs, like a present-day Caravaggio, is keenly aware of her paintings’ abstract geometry and uses it for every ounce of expressiveness it possesses. For example, in another of the Flood paintings, she establishes the suggestion of a cross by balancing a vertical cluster of bare winter trees in the foreground against a horizontal row of trees in the distance. She achieves a complementary feeling of receding depth in the same painting by directing the viewer’s eye upward into an airy cloud-puffed sky, then quickly downward again back into the flood water. In other words, this apparently still scene of a flooded field becomes a psychological powerhouse of interlaced and pulsating vectors- the trees working up and down, the sky and water pulling the eye in and out – until one can swear the canvas is actually contracting and expanding with the fierce life force of a beating heart.
Clearly Moevs is a painter whose talent deserves recognition. Her quiet earth toned paintings speak volumes about the brilliant nuance of emotion. Let’s hope to see more of her work soon.