The paintings of Chilean-born artist Rebeca Puga are based on her investigations into how we see and experience the space that surrounds us and how that parallels our consciousness and perception of time. Her canvases possess a dynamic sense of incompletion, where line and shape are continually coming into definition. Puga embues her work with a high level of gestural energy, constantly reworking her paintings until they vibrate with a sense of expansion and erasure, coming and going, being and unbecoming.
Her specific sensibility is informed, in part, by her experience as an immigrant to California, which at times has made Puga extremely aware of living between two cultures where her Chilean background was encountering a new and intense American world. In the 1990s, for example, Puga was highly influenced by how human beings are constructed by language, how we are constantly translating, reading and decoding while going about our daily lives. The work from this period reflects this experience and materialized in the form of paintings based on writing and drawing, that positioned themselves on the fine edge of readability. Drawing as well as writing allowed Puga's work to capture elements and configurations which are constantly in flux. They also situated the work in this crossing between cultures, between expressing and exercising silence.
The focus of Puga's later work, became close observation of the environment, where she zoomed in on issues related to space and the human need to feel oriented. She had a particular interest in our desire to clearly identify and name places, which sometimes are merely psychological spaces.
"Following this line of thought I looked at real things in the world: the floor in our bedroom, a view from a small window, a piece of fabric, and a hoop. The paintings are not literal, there is a translation involved and memories are incorporated adding a layer of fragmentation and displacement to the work. They could look abstract but they are so by virtue of allegiance, not by a decision, because its source was not abstraction in itself but our environment."
In her recent paintings, Puga's interest in the translation of the observed environment continues. Elements of handwriting are reawakened as colorful lines looping through soft color fields, while vessel-like structures appear as elements in a landscape of interlocking shapes. Hints of Los Angeles emerge as broken horizon lines and loose architectural forms like compositional scaffolding that falls in and out of perspective. In the epic, Home and Away, the artist orients the viewer with a blackened sky, a burst of yellow sun and the suggestion of a field, then disrupts this sense of balance with a web of vibrant forms alluding to a basketball hoop, a dish, a lamp perhaps, a fence on the edge of a void, a glimpse of urban sprawl floating in non-space. In other works, like Ice Pink, the artist draws inspiration from an ice hockey rink. Her memory of the cold emanating from the surface of the ice is conveyed with an intense pink hue and colorful lines winding upward to the top of the canvas suggest the transformation of ice into water vapor.
Picking up on cues from artists like Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly, Amy Sillman, and Roberto Matta, the artist creates compositions where figuration, abstraction and fantastical three dimensional space commingle. Boundaries dissolve and form functions much like memory that slips in and out of focus.
REBECA PUGA earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her BA in Social Economical and Juridical Sciences from the University of Chile. Much of Puga’s work is inspired by what she observes while driving around Los Angeles, where she has maintained a studio for fifteen years.