May 12, 2011 BIALA
In between painting, drawing, and all the prep work involved with making art I often spend time with other artists work in museums, galleries, and from my collection of books and catalogs. This is an important time to be inspired and to discover different approaches and possibilities in painting.
About two years ago I was visiting one of my favorite New York Galleries, Tibor de Nagy. I discovered the work of a painter named Biala. Her work was not hanging in the gallery at the time, but I found a catalog of her paintings that struck me. From the cover image I could instantly see that she was painting in that realm that attracts me, somewhere in between figuration and abstraction. Biala was clearly making decisions based on looking and then transforming shape and color into unique painterly excursions, unlike what’s seen in the actual world.
Biala was born 1902 in Biala, Poland as Janice Towrkovska. She and her brother Jack changed their last name to Tworkov when the moved to New York City in the 1920s. They both attended the National Academy in New York in 1923 and shortly after were introduced to the artist and painting teacher, Charles Hawthorne, in the historic artist colony of Provincetown, MA. In 1930 Janice changed her name to Biala in order to not be confused with her brother. In the same year she left for Paris with the novelist Ford Madox Ford. The couple cultivates friendships with such notables as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Constanti Brancusi.
Biala continued to have a long painting career until her death in 2000. Her association with the abstract representational painters of Europe in the mid 20th Century and the New York School of painting influenced her particular style.
Biala is known for her loose dreamlike paintings from her travels and of important friends. What attracts me to Biala’s work is this unique regard for realism that occurred during her working life when non-objective abstraction was dominating the art world. It seems as if Biala was the type of painter who very much enjoyed what she interpreted and was not exactly invested in particular trends, but her unique vision. When viewing her work I see she liked to draw, paint, observe, imagine, recreate, and transcend what was already accomplished. Her acute sensitivity of color relationships stand out as compellingly beautiful in a way that is not sentimental or even pastoral as a landscape painter. These unexpected color relationships and relaxed approach to interpreting realism define her work as one of the great Modernists. It’s amazing that Biala has not received more attention and exposure for her work. After studying painting for many years it is only until recently I discovered her. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.