My Pupil is an Anvil, Nathlie Provosty’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, introduces the artist’s newest body of work: five large paintings and several smaller pieces. The title indicates a play on words and vision. A pupil is the dark circular opening in the iris of the eye that allows light in, but it is also a student. An anvil is an iron metalworking tool upon which objects are struck and shaped, but it is also a small bone in the ear that registers vibrations. Both the pupil and anvil are tasked to receive, and respond in force.
How does the pupil, delicate organ that it is, perceive form and color? These paintings investigate this question by making form and color suggest one thing while evoking another. While they may initially appear monochromatic, deeply layered tones and shapes reveal themselves the longer one looks. Black pigment dissolves into earth tones; shades of lemon yellow and peach emerge from beneath white paint. The austere, curved lines have a mechanical meter, yet are drawn by hand. The shapes within recall letters, numbers, and other signs, yet willfully signify nothing. The image exists neither in the painting nor the pupil, but in the unresolved space in between. Provosty’s work posits a nuanced concept of vision, testing how the material itself—oil paint on linen—communicates, never assuming that the mind sees what the eye perceives.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by the artist and writer Brian O’Doherty.