Despite being fundamental conduits to knowledge, our senses are subject to perennial doubt. Stimuli can present itself in deceptive and disguised forms. Our eyes and ears can always mislead. Tangibility might seem somehow exceptional, implying a physical existence that literally must be felt to be believed. In the presence of Rachelle Sawatsky’s work, however, touch can also be a trick.
If considered like skin, her paintings undulate with an organic liveness, suggesting interior volumes beyond their permeable surfaces. Yet the haptic memory stored in these surfaces is often belied by the vivid impressions that cover them. Indexical traces of gravel, sand, hay, and chains signify prior contact between objects and canvas, but the palpable conditions of this contact—a material’s density and weightiness, the coarseness or softness of its grain, the duration of its positioning—linger just out of reach.
The artist physically places and shifts these objects, leaving marks of watercolor in whisps, swipes, clusters, and bleeds. A kind of liquid intelligence underlies this process: compositions unfold and articulate themselves according to how solid matter behaves amidst what Kaja Silverman terms the "lability and incalculability" of a fluid substrate. As materials gather, combine, soak, and spread, they assert their own pictorial logic, merging dry and wet, solid and liquid, with each new wash of paint.
In some cases, deeply hued forms resemble large crevices or ridges. They appear to seep outward, shifting in tone and texture and gently withdrawing at their edges. Gestures like these accumulate through a multitude of chromatic layers, coalescing in palimpsests of positive and negative space. These spaces’ coordinates constantly transmute, alternately crystallizing into sharp, granular masses and atomizing into airy sprays. As patterns emerge and recede, they throw shadows and dip into murky depths—melding, soaking, churning, knowing.