Terrible Beauty
by Scot Kyle

Alanna Marohnic's work allows us a rare
glimpse through a window into a personal
landscape which is both jarring and aesthetic.
Having been raised by  artistic partents (mother
a painter, father a photographer) she gained an
artistic view on our world. Painting by age four,
Alanna had made a firm commitment by age
seventeen to maintain her art as life's vocation.
Through the years Alanna discovered that a deeper
look at the physical world reveals countless layers
of intricacy in colour, form and meaning.

We are immediately struck by the luminous nature
of her colours. They seem to animate form while
offering up feelings of hope and joy. Form and colour 
harmonize well to provide a natural motion to overall
image. Her subject matter ranges widely from the
mythological creatures of folklore to people in her life.
In the wider spectrum of Alanna's work the presence
of nature's imagery runs strong: flower petals, leaves,
insects, eyes, faces, and human forms merge with
intimate proximity forming a kind of delicate balance
amidst the chaos. Our western notion of subject/object
duality is convincingly painted away before our eyes.
It's not so easy to maintain a world view where self
stands apart from nature; animal from plant; body from
spirit, when full bouquets sprout from adult fontanelle
(For A Moment She Saw it Revealed) in a kind of
psychotropic suggestion of enlightenment itself.

 

In her Dream Wave vision, a child's dreamscape is
unfurled for us. We stand breathless with the child in the
uncontrollable current of her scenery. A dragon, feathers,
flower petals, a white bird, jewels, a necklace, a skelton key
and a goblet are all frozen on the wind. This feeling of
stopped motion is present thoughout much of Alanna's
work where her characters and landscape seem on the
brink or reanimation.
The viewer isn't sure whether the
frightening and beautiful image source springs from within
the child or somewhere beyond the night. But again,
Alanna's litho pencil suggests that perhaps the line
between inner and outer worlds, fantasy and "reality"
is only tentatively maintained.


Our flippant description of this fantasy or that reality
is only a matter of perspective or depth of investigation.
In her portrayal of The Buck, a woman returning to her
home in the woods is startled by a male deer's attempt
to mate with her. Here Alanna's swirling watercolours
remind us of an ancient fact: perhaps we're not as far
removed from the animal world as we would often like
to believe. Alanna's interpretation of an actual recurring
event in nature seems more like fairy tale than fact.
Visceral indeed is her observation that animals don't
know themselves to be separate from us. The notion that
a work of fairy tale or fantasy is mere fiction from the

mind of an artist must be swept aside.  A more
discerning look at her images reveals a harmony
between the fantastic and the familiar. The
resulting union brings us to a higher domain of
perception. We've strayed far from art's school
of realism and yet her sense of abstraction is
strangely comforting. It's a though Alanna presents
us with a kind of spiritual negative corresponding
to our otherwise familiar photographic image of
nature.

With the spirit called into view, what we
once held onto as "real" now becomes shaky
ground. In Alanna's world, a feather or a leaf can
be abstract when our eyes are trained to probe
deeper than surface line or colour. Through
experiencing her works we may perceive that
what we, as seers and artists, bring to the world
is a vital part of the puzzle of existance. Alanna
is curious and receptive to comments on her
work as she feels they can only add to her
own understanding of a completed painting.

At the start of her creative process, Alanna is often
unclear as to her intent when the brush first meets blank
paper: "Soon I realize I've painted myself into a mess, but
if I have faith I'll reach another point where a solution
inevitably emerges," explains Alanna about the work of
creation.  Through the process she feels she has developed
a kind of muscle no one can see.  In her "solution" entitled
The Fish we are given much more to ponder than the mere
image of a fish rising for a grasshopper meal atop turbulent
waves. The insect is attentive only to the weather at hand:
gray curling clouds churn an ever increasing sea, unaware
of the immediate threat circling below. Powerful analogy in
this picture is worth a thousand words as we are reminded
of the artist's feelings: we can't see the unexpected but it's
there. We're also struck by the life force that is painted in the
body cavities of the fish and grasshopper. Their colours
appear to emanate an inherent light source reminiscent of
the intricacy and feeling one gets from gazing at cathedral
stained glass.

As experience increases, Alanna finds her emotions
enter her paintings more and more. From Shakespeare's
Hamlet comes a full blown portrayal of Ophelia's Suicide;
falling to the river from tree's limb, her weighted dress
drags her down to a watery grave.

Even through typically optimistic colouring it's a desperate
painting. It's as though Alanna's brush has calmed a swirling
gasoline slick long enough for us to catch a timeless glimpse
long enough for us to catch a timeless glimpse of an image

through the aperture of her complex feelings. This painting is
the dark fruit of a month where the artist felt she was losing
her mind: she explores the pain to see where it may lead.
All the while she muses, "At what point have I had enough
of life?"

Eroticism owns a thread in the web of Alanna's work as
well. In one rare perspective we see through a woman's own
eyes looking down over her breasts. As her view extends
towards her midriff, body lines melt wondrously into earth's
landscape beyond. Her woman's form eventually become a
snowy rock cut. Confidently, a theme reappears: we are
ineffably fused with nature.

Throughout art history most female nudity is painted by
males and Alanna has been known to ask, "Where's the
woman's mind in these body images?"  She prefers her
models to come with real life experience and she rises
to her own challenge to paint the person in the woman.
Facial expressions betray a life lived, not always unscathed
but running the full gamut of human emotions. Female bodies

are often well muscled, not simply delicate.

The fragility of life in Late Summer is the prevailing artistic
feeling in an image; half woman's face, half deliquescent flowers.
"All of a sudden," explains Alanna,"I saw  the details of the world,
and it gets bigger and bigger."  This facial form mixed  with pastel
blooms presents a kind of living Yin/Yang symbol which is
comforting at a spiritual level.

Ultimately, a walk down Alanna's garden path offers an
infusion of mystical energy. Colourfully masked faces appear
through the foliage to gain their glimpse of us mortals and
our artist is often just as surprised at their appearance from

the other side as we are.  When asked if she believes in angels,
Alanna replies, "I must, I seem to paint enough of them. I don't
know where this one comes from though, she just appeared
out of the paintbrush."

 

Alanna works from real life or memories. Her studio is full
of small drawings and paintings from daily life.  They represent
her obsession to keep a visual diary of the beauty around us.
In her personal gallery we get a glimpse of moments from her
travels to places such as Croatia and Mexico. These smaller
recordings may often be later woven into the fabric of a larger
piece.  The resulting union produces transcendence from the
daily fragments. "When I'm painting, I have to be there, very
present, in order to absorb the energy that is there. Feeling that
energy gives crucial life to a painting. This is everything I have,

I put my guts into this."

Where Alanna's mind, spirit, hand, and brush meet paper
the result is spiritual: a terrible beauty.  We are grateful though,
and somehow relieved with the abstract made real and the
spiritual tangible. Perhaps with Alanna's help our perception
has matured from magic realism to
mystic realism.

                                                                        Scot Kyle