Laura Ball, Armoured Personelle Carriers #1, 2006

Art Blog // Laura Ball

The young women in Laura Ball’s new paintings appear exnihilo, as though inexplicably transported from their daily grind into a utopian jungle where horses, rams, and lemurs await a playful battle.

Showing both oils and watercolors, Ball displays the breadth of her talents. The canvas works recall Sigmar Polke’s sketchy, disappearing figures, but with more focus and direct narrative.

Her delicate watercolors demonstrate her craftsmanship and restraint. The natural rendering of the girls and animals contrasts with other water-thinned elements breaking apart into abstract areas of hazy color. Each figure maintains a weight and solidity in their airy, vacant environment, which gives them the feeling of dreams or wild visions. They seem to bleed through the empty fibers of the paper and into our world.

Armed with squirt-guns and pointed fingers, and atop the unusual work animals, the girls engage in a brightly colored chaos that ranges from light, ironic glee, to a darker, unexpected violence. These are not the simple fantasies of little girls, carrousels and candy, but those of a slightly older, not yet settled age when fear and responsibility begin to claim the minds of young people.

Here, the only realities will be manufactured by the inhabitants. The girls’ excitement seems uncontrollable. Their arms flailing, legs kicking off the sides of horses, and laughing so hard it must hurt, they are clearly releasing a pent-up cache of energy and creativity. Their newfound freedom implies a prior oppressor, and the mostly negative space into which these dream-like renderings emerge hint at an external absence.

With this oppressor confined to the blank margins of the page, there remains no hindrance to the ultimate enjoyment of the girls. Except themselves of course. The dissonance created between their formerly internal and external realities falls. And where much responsibility is given, failure is rampant. The girls are affected by this “play” in extremely different ways. Many seem emotionally distraught and victimized.

Whatever their individual oppressors in the real world, they have clearly not escaped them all. They project their own fears onto each other, as they are clearly not endangered by squirt-guns or search parties with walkie-talkies. And others seem to be putting too much threat behind these same toy weapons, grimacing as they pull the imaginary triggers.

The difficulty for some of these girls seems to lie in their inability to understand why they still feel afraid in their collective fantasy. If they feel fear, then there must be someone to be afraid of. And without the boring job to hate, or the overbearing parents, these young women seem to be in the throws of their own developing, and sometimes self-destructive psychology.

Laura Ball: Wargames (Don't Try This At Home)
Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago
Oct 20—Nov 25, 2006


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