Joan Vennum is a New York-based artist who creates luminous, color-flooded paintings that are at once abstract and figurative. She is known for her dreamlike canvases covered with thin layers of repeated brushstrokes. Composed of broad fields of color, the paintings portray space as it appears both in her imagination and the natural world. This newest series of oils emerged from Vennum's recent experiences in India. Deeply influenced by vivid colors of the Subcontinent, Vennum's work has become bolder and more sensuous.
"My discoveries in India have become part of my being, and appear in my work in subtle forms," Vennum says. The artist was inspired by her observations of daily life such as the sun setting on the river Ganges and brightly dressed women working in green fields. She was also intrigued by the effect of viewing one color through another—such as the landscape through a translucent dupatta (scarf) blowing in the wind, for example, as she rode past on a motorcycle.
In her earlier explorations of light and space, Vennum painted subtle gradations of color forming veil-like surfaces. Maintaining this premise, she continues to compose fields of color by layering paint. However, recently she has introduced a more vivid palette reminiscent of Indian miniature paintings. Using fluid gestures, she creates lushly painted works with concentrated vermilions, saffron yellows, and indigos. Her handling of paint has shifted toward a looser application and she has amplified the contrast between dark and light. The resulting canvases are vibrant and ethereal. These are works that are more than two-dimensional renderings of space—they are powerful environments to be experienced.
Vennum is a native of New York and has roots in the post-abstract expressionist camp of women painters such as Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell. She has exhibited widely in the United States and Sweden. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum; The Power Collection of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; the Konstmuseet, Uttersberg, Sweden; the Skandia Forsakringsbolag, Stockholm; and the Museo Civico, Taverna, Italy.