Hidden in Full View
Jan Wurm’s work flows between painting and drawing just as her visual language bridges abstraction and figuration. The search for a vocabulary for the expression of contemporary life reflects Wurm’s own position as social observer.
This work pursues an interest in the gesture, body language, and social implications of the interactions of people. Beyond portraiture, these artworks have sought to distill imagery to an abstract system which might convey elements of emotion, tension, and resolution.
The very close, intimate qualities of drawing evoke a sense of strong presence and reality. Viewed at short range, not only does the scale of such works on paper invite interaction with the piece, but the marks hold a controlled relationship to the image which can direct the viewer with an ease of manipulation rarely resisted on such a level. The energy and movement of line tend to imbue the briefest study with life and character. It is a certain veracity which drawings hold which renders nearly any subject worthy of investigation. With this freedom of exploration and tentative choices, it is possible to study any face peering out from a window, staring across a room, or directly confronting. Unlike formal portraiture, drawings convey a fresh immediacy, impressions which still retain the sense of contact. Thus the daily encounters of people and the strictly determined aspects of culture can be reflected in drawings which touch upon a multitude of attitudes. It is from this process that images are distilled.
The intimacy of a couple is layed before the viewer as we partake of the male gaze addressing the woman with shirt open to the waist. And then, there is a switch to regard the man as object of attention when the woman stands behind and he is open to examination and visual consumption. The beach and ocean and poolside manner present a world of unclothed bodies both individually isolated and engaged and available.Whatever the combination of materials, there is a constant push toward an image of light, intensity of being, and the weight of water and sky.
Born in New York, Wurm moved to California as a young child, and then again to Europe where she lived four years in Austria with her family. Even her art education was divided: between California (B.A., University of California, Los Angeles) and London (M.A.R.C.A., Royal College of Art). This repeated shift in perspective honed an eye for observation and synthesis. Working and teaching in California, Wurm continues to spend time in Europe. Drawing from traditions of social engagement, images reflect culture through body language, gesture, and color. Jan Wurm’s work is represented in collections including the the New York Public Library Print Collection and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Achenbach Graphic Arts Collection.
These works give a burst of recognition, a glimmer of understanding and a moment of mutual recognition.