Kozik presents work at Kenise Barns

The Ontario outdoorsman and painter Tom Thomson (1877-1917) captured the essence of the far North American landscape in a series of small paintings on wood panels—executed so well that in the century since his early death (in a canoe accident) he has become the de facto Painter Laureate of Canada. A great part of his achievement is due to his skillful use of the discrete brushstroke, deliberately placed in pitch-perfect colors, likely out of a necessity for immediacy, as his landscapes were painted on location. The ‘discrete brushstroke’ as an idea appeared in 19th Century French painting (Manet and the Impressionists), liberating the art form from descriptive modeling and making the mark a gesture unto itself. This freedom opened the door to Modernism, culminating in such a painter as Ellsworth Kelly: color and gesture simultaneously made manifest in pure form.

KK Kozik employs the discrete brushstroke with impressive results, building her images out of patterns and ‘tiles’ of complex tertiary colors (vanilla yellows, resonant mauves and pinks, deep blues and sagey greens). Aspects of her carefully structured images appear as friezes composed of blips and chunks of color, reading as vegetation or light moving on the water’s surface in a dizzy fracture. Psychedelic.

Much as Tom Thomson did in his paintings of Ontario, Kozik internalizes familiar views of our New England landscape and converts them, using her logic of design and touch, into mythic states of being. In one of her small landscape views, Kozik channels Irish painter Paul Henry’s sculpted clouds—and reminds us that any landscape painter of merit needs to capture the spirit of place.

Even though Kozik is a sophisticated painter there remains in her work a childlike sense of wonder. These paintings are devoid of the cynical skepticism and irony that pervade much of contemporary painting, and that is a very good thing. In one of her night skies the stars are silver appliqués attached to the surface of the painting, much the way a middle school girl would do in an art project. Wonderful. Kozik’s work proclaims that this sweet ‘island’ floating in space which we inhabit and the fact we even exist, is indeed a miracle.

Kozik’s show, titled “Miracle Island,” will be on display at Kenise Barns in Kent through May 12.

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