Cynthia Ona Innis Paints Our Floating World

"Fuse" runs through Jan. 21 at Traywick Contemporary.


"Manantial" by Cynthis Ona Innis is part of "Fuse" at Traywick Contemporary.

Courtesy of Traywick

Painters and photographers with a picturesque turn of mind have always been drawn to the magical hours of dawn and dusk, transitions that besides captivating the eye, embody daily change and the longer cycles (presumably unchanging) of nature. The transition from day to night and light to dark, and vice versa, also has symbolic or metaphorical meanings: Think of the philosophical, visionary landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich, Van Gogh, Piet Mondrian (before abstraction), Lyonel Feininger and Mark Rothko. (That spiritual-landscape lineage is traced in Robert Rosenblum’s Modern Painting and the Northern Romantic Tradition: Friedrich to Rothko.)

Cynthia Ona Innis focuses on this time-honored theme in her semi-abstract, semi-representational paintings. Her second solo show at Traywick in entitled Fuse, which I take to indicate her desire to synthesize the world of visible reality with her mind’s-eye interpretation. Innis’ multimedia (ink acrylic, fabric) works are nonrealistic, i.e., abstracted and simplified, but their broad planes punctuated by textural markings and their harmonious palettes of grays, beiges, and blues suggest at least to this photo-flaneur the familiar vistas of the Pacific and San Francisco Bay. They’re seascapes, but also memory pictures constructed in the studio: nature seen through a temperament, to quote Zola. In addition, we are too conscious, in earthquake country (with sea levels rising) that the glorious natural beauty that some take for granted can be as transient as golden clouds at dawn or dusk. Innis infuses her landscapes with the complexities of reality: “shifting terrains, geological phenomena, and environmental transitions both above and below the Earth’s surface. From spouting geysers and active fault lines, to scorched deserts and bleached grasslands, she captures the power and possibilities of an environment that is constantly evolving. … She fluently intertwines multiple viewpoints, distances, and scales within each piece.” In works like Olompali, Ridge, Caldera, Delta Delta, Tam, Rio, Brink, and Manantial, Innis brings the spiritualized landscape tradition into the digital age.

Fuse runs through Jan. 21, Traywick Contemporary, 895 Colusa Ave., Berkeley 510-527-1214,


This report appeared in the January 2017 edition of our sister publication, The East BayMonthly.

Published online on Jan. 6, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.

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