Where wallpaper patterns become real drama

“Chromakey Tree 2111” by Dorothea Van Camp, from 2021.Dorothee Van Camp

In Dorothea Van Camp’s paint/silkscreen hybrids at HallSpace, upholstery and wallpaper patterns heave, twist, and float in indeterminate, unsettling spaces. The designs resonate with a domestic familiarity, but the way she pushes them emphasizes tension and change. It evokes rites of passage and the cycle of life they take us through.

The artist, a printmaker, rolls oil paint on linen canvas or sheets of Yupo, an absorbent synthetic paper, creating a misty space that evokes dream and memory, and superimposes silk-screened patterns in this haze. Several works feature a fine mesh that opens from intense compression.

“Standoff 2125” by Dorothea Van Camp, from 2021.Dorothee Van Camp

Two such flares, tight in the center and bursting like black fireworks, collide in “Standoff 2125.” The mesh could be that of the veils worn at funerals, but here, instead of masking grief, they embody its density and savagery. They clash and argue against a pink background covered in delicate gray floral patterns like wispy curtains swaying in a warm breeze. The piece is both languorous and explosive, like a piece by Tennessee Williams.

“Reave 2113” by Dorothea Van Camp, from 2021.Dorothee Van Camp

From a distance, “Reave 2113” reads like a dark mountain landscape with light spilling between two peaks. Get closer and the mountains shrink into a wispy flower, with this twisted mesh shape, buttery yellow with streaks of purple, cradled by dark leaves on a deeply shaded floral pattern. And in “Crinolines 2106”, the white and yellow knit undulates like the voluptuous skirt of a wedding dress. Above, flowers twist and rise in white, black and gray, blending almost into figures, the ghostly helpers of a bride.

“Crinolines 2106” by Dorothea Van Camp, from 2021.Dorothee Van Camp

These paints hold a lot; in grief, hope and in hope, grief. The sheer propulsiveness of some of the patterns keeps the works from feeling soggy or sentimental, removing them from placid domestic interiors like the tornado swept away Dorothy in Oz – while indulging us in the real painful drama of home life. In “Chromakey Tree 2111”, a pattern of pale yellow-green foliage spirals through a smoky haze as darker leaves beneath it droop and wither under drips of white paint. One plant dies and another blooms. We are destroyed; we are rejuvenated. Life goes on.

DOROTHEA VAN CAMP: OFFENSE

At HallSpace, 950 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, through July 3. 617-288-2255, www.hallspace.org


Cate McQuaid can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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