The work of American artist Nissa Kauppila is full of tantalising contradictions. With birds and wings as her frequent subjects and Chinese ink and watercolour as her medium of choice, Kauppila captures fleeting moments of ‘chaos’ - a flutter of feathers, a flash of motion in the air, elements exploding or forming together - with a surprising serenity. The fragile beauty of these split seconds is in this way frozen in time, calling to mind the transient nature of life and defying it at the same time.
Kauppila's fascination with birds began with her childhood in rural Vermont. They represented to her a kind of freedom that humans could only emulate and watch from afar. This awe for the natural world led her in part to gravitate towards classical Chinese ink painting, incorporating its line and form as well as mastering it as a medium, having studied with masters in Foshan. She combines Chinese ink traditions of minimalism and suggestion with a realist style from the western tradition, taking her subjects from real creatures in her environment and painting them with great attention to life-like accuracy. The effect is startling, the unexpected detail and saturation of colour drawing the eye in and challenging the viewer to define Kauppila’s work in any simple category.
As classical as Kauppila’s work may seem at first glance, it can be said to have particular relevance given today’s urbanised lifestyles and habits of self-absorption. It is a reminder of creatures and life forces beyond ourselves, perhaps offering an alternative way of being, one that is attuned to nature and its immeasurable transformations in every moment.
Kauppila has exhibited at solo and group shows in Macau, Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hamburg, Taipei, South Korea, and Guangzhou in the last few years.
Nissa Kauppila: Serene Chaos
IINNOO Gallery, 370 Xing Guo Road, Shanghai
2 March - 15 April 2018