‘New Painting” Artist Spotlight: Karen Paavola
“A successful artist is one who makes a new contribution to the field.” – Karen Paavola
Written by Leigh Sabisch, gallery associate, The Southern
When you hear that someone is a screenprinter, the first thing that may come to mind is the person who printed your high school marching band t shirts. Karen Paavola, however, utilizes her meticulous attention to detail and process-rich approach to creating work to make the most stunning six to eight layered silk screen prints. Naturally, as any nationally recognized oil painter would, she also added embellishments onto the surface of the finished prints to add to the intimacy of the series. Each layer, each screen, each medium is steeped in narrative, some more explanatory than others, but moving nonetheless. There’s emotion of some degree behind all artwork, but when you’re lucky, you get an artist like Paavola who is the pinnacle of emotional conveyance; you get someone who is fluent in visual language and medium-based metaphors. You don’t even have to know the true story behind the work in order to feel what she’s intending, but just in case you want to know more, we asked her a few questions.
How would you describe the process in how you bridge the gap between printmaking and painting?
Painting, printmaking and graphic design have always been separately pursued activities. For this new series, I decided to combine screen printing, oil painting and other mediums. While the work is still representational, the compositions were built to have a more graphic quality.
Your work has a pretty clear narrative; do the materials that you add to the prints post-production specifically add to that narrative?
Yes. For example, the icicles in “Chapter 1” are layered with glitter. “Chapter 5” was already an absurd image, so glitter felt appropriate there, but for a different reason.
Each piece reads as highly therapeutic; is the fact that the work is so steeped in process and layers related at all to that?
Somehow, everything I engage in is highly tedious and meticulous. This project was no exception. I enjoy the monotony and have always thought of it as therapeutic. While that aspect isn’t what necessarily drives the work, it happens to be a lovely by-product.
What’s next for you and your work?
This auto-biographical series began by going through my photos and collecting imagery to represent various events experienced after my long-time partner killed himself. Each piece in the series is labeled as a “chapter” and combines specific motifs to illustrate the theme being explored. I have seven more chapters already planned, and as I continue to age, there will likely be more to add.
Her work says so much, it’s almost like each piece is a new episode of a heavily anticipated TV show. Don’t miss one! If you want to keep up with this incredible auto-biographical series that Paavola is working through, you can follow her on Instagram @karenpaavola and check out her WEBSITE.