The death of painting is a fallacy that Valerie Beller's intensely beautiful canvases make clear again and again. Like a number of artists today who have reintegrated visual pleasure into a new erotics of painting, Beller's hypnotic allure is all about significant form, exquisite color, and the palpable richness of a well-worked surface. But this is not to overlook the depicted world that Beller skillfully constructs. For here, in her imagined universe of complex interconnectedness, we find systems of pictorial elements set within and against a glowing atmospheric ground. The effect is musical, rhythmic, dreamy. Beller builds an architecture of thought that reverberates across the surface of the composition.

Dominating all the paintings are oval and circular forms that suggest cells, eyes, pictographs, neurons, or celestial orbs. Beller clusters them in amorphous clouds or in lines, like droplets, that echo the rectangular frame. The forms are distinct in color and design; they are a genus of closely related types. Most of the forms rest near or on the surface of the canvas, counteracting the fictive depth created by the washes of color behind. The historical tension of painting where facture and illusion coexist is here brilliantly displayed. With this strategy, Beller reminds us how fantasy and reality are in a constant duet.

Beller takes us into a world that has no beginning, no end, a world that blurs the distinctions between art, science, nature, and the body, by representing the “connective processes which link them all.” With the touch of the hand, she marks a territory that is both perceptually appealing and symbolically dense. Beller gives pictorial form to that which is invisible in the way that only good painting can.

Lisa Wainwright
Dean, Graduate Studies
Professor, Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Sadie Plant, “The Virtual Complexity of Culture,” FutureNatural, New York: Routledge (1996), p. 213.