I’ve wondered whether the turn in abstract painting toward duplication and repetition is a response to the infinite reproducibility of digital imagery. The work of Raymonde Beraud, still a student at London’s Royal College of Art, seems to suggest in a most unexpected way that it is.
Her first solo exhibition at Mihai Nicodim Gallery consists of a selection of small paintings that feel a bit lost on the gallery’s tall white walls. Most are nearly square and rendered in alternately murky or jewel-tone colors. Layers of glazes create a seductive, organic depth, but the paintings also feel somewhat digital, patterned all over with repeated fine lines or strokes that resemble skeins of hair or Victorian vegetal patterns.
Just as one can imagine a Color Field painting stretching on forever, digital patterns are infinitely reproducible. In theory, they extend indefinitely without any loss of fidelity. Beraud’s resolutely contained images gesture toward this sublime notion, but it quickly becomes clear that her delicate patterns are in fact not patterns at all, but records of the inability of the hand to accurately repeat itself. Evidence of scraping and scratching also comes through, like scar tissue.
One of painting’s most appealing features is that it can record the hand in action, whether a bold slash or a quick flick of the wrist. In Beraud’s work we see it emulating a machine, and failing beautifully.
Mihai Nicodim Gallery, 3143 S. La Cienega Blvd., Unit B, (310) 838-8884, through March 23. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.nicodimgallery.com