You don’t need a degree in art history or a code breaker’s eye for symbology to figure out what Loie Hollowell’s paintings are about. Because displayed, and – quite often – splayed, across her lumpy-bumpy canvases are all the tools of procreation. We’re talking penises and vaginas, here, dicks and fannies, cocks and muffs.
The young American artist, you see, has been trying to get pregnant – it’s a goal, an aim, an obsession that has overwhelmed her output. There’s nothing really abstract here, but it is abstracted: vaginas are reduced to simple almond shapes hovering over two curved lines, penises are oblong rods that penetrate and splurge, there’s red sperm, blue eggs…you get the gist. It’s sexual, intense, overt.
And the whole thing is captured on 3D canvases that ripple and bulge in all the right places. The colours thrum with echoes of 1970s sci-fi book covers, like altar pieces to an alien fertility goddess.
Maybe that’s the best way to look at Hollowell’s work, actually: as devotional painting, visual prayers to the lords of procreation. The influences of Georgia O’Keeffe, op art and old sci-fi are glooped all over these works. The cock-vs-vag spaceship war of ‘Direct Shot’ and the pulsating pubey opening of ‘Low Hanging Fruit’ are personal highlights, and the room of drawings is great too, but there’s a lot to like here.
And the best bit is that I saw the artist wandering around the space on my visit, one hand on her belly: all that devotional painting worked, she’s pregnant.