“Yesterday a child came out to wonder”
- Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game, 1966
Mulholland Drive rambles its way from congested LA to the creatively fertile community that bloomed in Laurel Canyon starting in the mid 60s. The early experimental sound of that era was first played in the now legendary living rooms and local pubs around the canyon. Joni Mitchell had rented a house there and Dylan and a bohemian crowd would drive out to be part of the scene. Laurel Canyon was the place to break free of expectations and create something brilliantly new and Mulholland was how you got there. It’s always been a road for dreamers.
In Carla Tak’s monumental Mullholland series, the large-format works thunder and roll with great bursts of colour and sensory pleasures. The works appear to be visual explosions but there is purpose and clarity amid the chaos. As each piece comes together over months, Tak puzzles out the canvas, relying on subconscious motivations and emotional presence to guide her choices. The work is sculptural as much as painterly as Tak constructs many of the iconographic elements from her extensive collection of saved paint pieces, the remnants of old pots and palettes and drip paintings. In their childlike primitive style and tactile expressiveness, the pieces evoke Basquiat, de Kooning and late career Jean Dubuffet, artists that sought to break free of conventional structures to reveal something more vital in art.
For Tak, the pieces represent a private journey and tell a personal story. While the series title is more metaphoric than representational, Tak has her own long standing associations with LA. As a 15 year old living in Gastown in the late 60s, she met an established American sculptor 20 years her senior with a studio in a graffiti-covered area of Santa Monica. She immediately moved south and stayed in the city for almost 20 years. Tak’s ongoing Mullholland work heralds the intrigue and vitality of that time. As large as a letter on the Hollywood sign, each work is a fascinating journey marked by freedom and emotion and all the wondrous elements that symbolize her spirited history. They tell a story of self-discovery, survival and reinvention on a grand scale
- Barry Dumka
“A psychiatrist insisted I journal write every morning as soon as I awoke. Three pages freehand. Did not matter what I wrote. Did not matter about spelling, composition, punctuation or style. The point was to purge.”
Carla Tak began journaling at 34 and continued the effort as a daily ritual until she was 50. As a form of personal psychotherapy, the journals offered the opportunity to explore the unrestrained truth of her feelings in the years before she began her art practice. In her rhythmic looping style, Tak spilled out stories of hardship, sadness and devastation. There was a lot of swearing. As the point was to release, not chronicle, her emotions, Tak would often layer one sentence over another pushing the visual effect of the page toward abstraction. She found beauty among this chaos. Of the thousands of pages written over the years, only 5 individual sheets were retained and the rest were burnt - a purging of the purge. The artistry in these pages was only considered years later after Tak began her painting career. In hindsight, the journal writing proved to be a gateway to Tak’s artistry, acting as the creative release for all the emotions that she would later build into her lyrical abstract work. Intimate and intriguing, the limited edition journal prints bear witness to the power of self-reflection and the marvel of transformation. Woven into this tangle of calligraphy is a story of struggle and resolve, hope and heartache and redemption. Patterns of thinking spooled into a magic box of abstraction that still offer a meditative value.
Expertly printed in collaboration with Peter Braune of New Leaf Editions, each signed limited print, in either black or amber, is part of an edition of 30. These intaglio prints are struck from a copper plate using the chine-Colle technique which allows the image to be printed onto the delicate surface of hand-made Japanese tissue paper while also being bonded to a more durable backing page made of archival rag paper.
Studio Journals/2017 Acrylic on canvas, each 48x36 inches
“Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit.”
- Mark Rothko
Rothko, like many modernists, believed in the personal spiritual power of abstract art and its potential for the sublime, for pieces to transfix and transform the viewer. And colour was his Christ, the lure that led the way. He believed that a work, intensely experienced, offers a portal to more profound awareness. For Carla Tak, her wondrous sculptures fashioned from the spillage and scraps of old paint projects appear as sacred objects, both meditative and magical in their allure. The work evidences Tak’s interest in conservation and repurposed materials but also pays tribute to the work ethic of the artist, the toil of studio life and the still fertile potential in dried up, leftover paint. Each piece seems strangely hallowed and potent as if a relic of some long lost work of art. Appearing both artful and organic, Tak’s sculptural paint pieces employ the power of intimacy to draw the eye into appreciating the still compelling appeal of paint as a medium for conveying emotion. The effect is fascinating. In the coarse and clever interlacing of colours and forms, the pieces appear like fragmented remnants of modern art, as if an homage to Pollock and Motherwell, Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell. But the work is more novel than nostalgic as Tak creates something entirely new constructed from her own old material - seductive personal symbols representing her life as an artist.
Paint Sculpture/2020, Acrylic paint with emulsion, 34x30 inches