Pace Gallery
United States

Tara Donovan’s canvases are ethereal, elegant and breath taking. In Donovan’s hands a canvas and everyday objects are elevated to poetry and possibly sculpture. There is that moment somewhere between when I walked into the white gallery space and when I realised what was going on. The trick of the eye was revealed and a warm smile spread across my face. What originally appeared to be fine black and white drawings of circles was replaced with hundreds of closely fitted pins nailed into a canvas; the closer the pins the darker the image.

The gallery itself with its white walls and polished concrete floor offered the perfect backdrop to these 12 works which range in size from 36 to 96” square and a diptych measuring 72 by 145” overall. The canvases offer a window onto images which were predetermined by Donovan; this is a departure from her previous sculptural work which evolved into the space it was to be displayed.

Donovan uses pins to draw on the canvas with each pin leaving its own mark which eventually builds into the picture. Process, scale and material are key elements in her work as well as optical illusion.

As a viewer I felt I was viewing something one minute and then had to shift my expectations and take a closer look the next. It was similar to looking at a printed page with and without a loop to reveal the dots invisible to the naked eye. Likewise with Donovan’s work close inspection is rewarded with the discovery of skilful placement of the pins making up the tones and shades of grey. They were particularly beautiful sideways on when it was possible to view the sheer quantity of pins and their various heights almost as a wave of metal.

This subtle display of ‘drawings’ made me think of photography and how the image isn’t just the end result but the summation of the whole time it took to create it. What I was looking at wasn’t just an interesting or beautiful use of pins but evidence of the process of working with the raw materials and playing with them until they submitted and were transformed into art.

I couldn’t help wonder what a more three dimensional play with pins would have looked like. It seems such a natural route for Donovan who speciality is usually sculptural and organic. Perhaps we’ll continue to see pins in her next venture. Whatever she does next I’ll be waiting with great interest.