Mesh as a Medium
Walking by your gallery on 12th Ave S at night, I saw a piece through your window that looked like it was made out of fabric. Can you tell me about it?
What you likely saw through our window is a painting by Joan Konkel who works with finely woven mesh over canvas to create hanging wall sculpture. Konkel transforms the mesh into works of art that appear so soft that many have confused the medium she works in as fabric.
Konkel begins each work by painting a canvas, she then paints, bends and layers mesh on top of the painted canvas. The resulting work is abstract but her technique is precise and exacting. She has a particular idea in mind for each work. Her focus is on the interaction of light with the layers of mesh and paint colors. Once she puts a bend or crease into the mesh it is permanent and cannot be undone, so if it doesn’t have the correct look that she wants to create from her mind, she starts over fresh. People often ask if she spray paints the mesh, but it is all painted by hand, requiring a great deal of skill in ensuring the paint is applied in such a way that still allows light through the mesh.
Konkel’s drive and focus is a fascination of illusions created from opposing forces of light, such as absorption versus reflection and refraction. Her work often just a few inches deep, appear much deeper in person. It’s an illusion that is created by the light bouncing off each strand of mesh and color.
In some of her work, she incorporates aluminum panels, which gives a stark contrast between the reflected light from the cold flat surface of the panels to what appears to be a soft material. This is purely an illusion since the “soft material” is actually metal or fiberglass mesh made to appear soft from her unique technique of layering and bending the mesh along with her use of colors.
Her use of mesh as a medium gives rise to another natural manifestation, moiré patterns. The moiré effect fractures the blend of colored layers into two distinct hues, and from these forms a geometric pattern. In person, these moiré patterns create the illusion that her work is in motion. The patterns change as you walk by, move your head, or when the light changes in the room. It makes her work appear living.
You and many others have been fooled by Konkel’s work. That is her intention – to create illusions of softness, of depth, and of motion all from her technique with mesh and paint. Her work is magical in that regard and leaves a lasting impression.