Remember to Forget: a Free Association Guide to Rachel Ostrow’s Luminous Landscapes

Rachel Ostrow wants you to use your imagination. To allow the unconscious fuzz of the mind to vibrate with free association. To see a shell, a bird’s wing, a cosmos, a spark, a wave. To perceive two dimensions simultaneously. To remember a dream, or a nightmare. To wonder how it’s done. To reconsider representation when generated through abstraction. To reconsider gesture as both movement and form. To oscillate, to deliberate, to remember, to forget. To question perception.  

What do you see? Rather, what do you perceive? Something familiar, or nostalgic? Perhaps fleeting or receding, barely grasped? Or is it approaching, tangible, on the tip of your tongue? There is a feeling: a dance, a flutter, a hesitation, a heartbeat. A fragment of music on the breeze. Or an image: a shard of abalone, a velvet ribbon, an orifice, a sunrise. Fins or feathers, wildfire. Forms emerge and retreat, space flattens and expands, eyes focus and refocus. Consciousness merges with the unconscious, the residue of memory and experience colliding with your innate attempt to discern the recognizable. Ostrow’s paintings are ambiguous and multi-faceted but also razor-sharp and precise, the consequence of movement and intuition transformed through the material substance of paint. She is both creator and witness to creation: her gesture determines the painting’s outcome, but the results are wholly unmediated and near impossible to control. It is visual choreography, visceral and ethereal. It is a collaboration with nature.

How was it made? A squeegee, with speed. Paint thrown, brushed, splattered and dabbed, then scraped, folded and skimmed. Quickly, but again and over again. Paint mixes and separates, repels and attracts. It is an alchemical process, but light and space are gold. Veils of color are both diffused and electric, illuminated from within: radiant, white-hot, jewel-toned, effervescent. The body is essential in creating the work, yet the work can only exist in dialogue with the mind. It deals in truth, but requires suspension of disbelief. The elusiveness and shapelessness of thought are momentarily given form. Whole universes take shape, and then dissipate. Illusion falls away with the reorientation of your gaze. The physicality of the painting as an object in itself suddenly denies its depth and dimensionality. You were just lost in space, floating, untethered, amoebic, amniotic. But now you are outside looking in, questioning what you’ve seen. Did you read the titles?  

-Maggie Wright, New York, 2018