Yvonne Swahn

Indeed we cannot imagine how a mind could paint. It is by lending [her] body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings. 

- Maurice Merleau-Ponty ( “Eye and Mind.” The Primacy of Perception)

Yvonne Swahn is a painter whose abstract art reflects movement. Her works take the viewer on a journey that incite mental and physical reactions. And though her work is often discussed in relation to poetry, there is another dimension that encourages movement through time and space.

My first experience with Yvonne Swahn’s art was a few months after my move to Sweden. Swahn was preparing for a studio move, the first in 15 years. The studio that she was preparing to leave was at one time a mental hospital, which would soon provide housing for immigrants. It came as no surprise that moving was the topic of our conversation.

During the early part of her career Swahn focused on graphics. Today, her aesthetic is a cross between Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly combined with a bit of mixed-media practices. Her visual dialogue expresses passages through time and memory. Her art also suggests that navigating through abstract spaces has the ability to generate multiple sensory and cognitive meanings. Swahn states, “In my mind, I am getting on a train that will not stop. And this was a genuine feeling that I had; I was getting on a train that had been running all the time…” This analogy best describes Swahn’s creative process.   

LivBoy ( 2012-2013), mixed media

LivBoy (2012-2013), mixed media

Livboy is a profound example of the train metaphor. The viewer is encouraged to move around the space thus alluding to the idea of travelling. The texture on the doughnut shaped sculpture resembles train tracks. Tags encompass the entire work. These remind the viewer of ribbons that are tied to luggage so travelers can distinguish their belongings. The piece is created by wrapping carpet gauze around old clothes. This references packing prior to travelling, but also represents the complexity of her work. She comments, “My works are portraits, but not in the traditional sense because they are portraits of my mind. I always have a feeling that I am heading somewhere far away.”  Experiencing Swahn's work is a journey. Each piece symbolizes a voyage.   

Molnet  (2012), mixed media

Molnet (2012), mixed media

Molnet is a white textured, entangled, oval object that is suspended in air. Again, the viewer is encouraged to walk around this organic yet methodically constructed work. Molnet awakens childhood memories of cloud watching. At that moment, the viewer is transported back in time to an age of innocence and imagination.   

Lockande Sammanhang is a heavily layered work that incorporates shades of dark blues, bright reds, and black undertones. You immediately feel the artist's passion when looking at this piece. The canvas is covered with scratches, splotches, and specks of gold. The complex center is smeared with yellow and gold hues. White traces blend with red smudges creating shades of pink. Swahn’s unique application of the gold colored metal in this work creates an almost shattered mirror effect. As you move around the piece, reflections of self surprisingly appear.

Lockande Sammanhang  (2012), oil on canvas

Lockande Sammanhang (2012), oil on canvas

Swahn’s process is a bit unpredictable. The pieces begin to take on a life of their own through a unique call and response action between the work and the artist. Swahn states, “I start with a spot here and there but I am not sure where the spots will lead me, so there becomes an interplay between me and the [work]. Most of the time it continues and when I think I am done,  I realize I am not near done, so I destroy [the work] and the process continues and when it is really hopeless it starts to grow [into] something that is very important and from that point the picture emerges.” Similar to Lockande Sammanhang, Främmande Mark exemplifies the relationship between the artist and her canvas.   

Främmande Mark is another heavily layered painting. It appears a bit weathered, rusted, or even antiqued, andengages the viewer like an old friend. The color palette is warm and inviting with hues of gold, yellow, black, blue, white, and copper. The canvas is covered with smudges, scratches, splatters, and drips. Each of the gestural actions reflects how Swahn physically places herself into the work. While contemplating each stroke, the viewer has the opportunity to experience Swahn’s energy and share her journey.

Främmande Mark  (2012), oil on canvas

Främmande Mark (2012), oil on canvas

Yvonne Swahn’s art takes on a life of its own and engages with the viewer. The involvement between the viewer and the artwork stimulates a physical and emotional reaction. Physically navigating around the work evokes a passionate response that is followed by a journey through past experiences, present conditions, and future dreams.  

Tony Phillips

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.  

- Alberto Giacometti

Making a living as an artist in 1970s Guyana was extremely difficult. Tony Phillips recalls, “private and commercial art galleries were non-existent … so artists relied on their reputation and verbal recommendations for the sale of works.” He says, “Other than being an art teacher at one of the secondary schools, the opportunities were limited for artists.”

Despite the difficulties, Phillips was a well-known and highly respected artist. His reputation led to a career-altering opportunity. The British owned and operated Barclays Bank DCO in Georgetown, Guyana was undergoing renovation. The architect in charge of the project, Hugh McGregor Reid commissioned Phillips to “enliven” the bank’s interior dome by creating a painting “of relevance and suitable subject matter.” The mural was conceived to beautify the building, educate the public, and honour those of distinction within Guyanese history.

Phillips quickly realised that he required assistance. So, he asked fellow Guyanese artist Stanley Greeves to join him. Phillips and Greeves chose “eight historical characters from varying eras of Guyana’s history.” Together they completed The Builders in 1974.   

Reflecting on this project, Phillips comments that receiving the contract and successfully completing the mural has been one of the highlights of his career. On a personal level, he is heartened by the fact that the mural “is guaranteed to stand up for 100 years for many generations to enjoy including [his] own children.”

Once The Builders was completed, Phillips was commissioned to do another large scale piece, entitled the Miracle of Demeter – a tribute to King Sugar. At the end of this project, he moved his young family from Guyana to Australia.   

The Cake Shop (2005)

The Cake Shop(2005)

Phillips’ paintings consist of figurative studies, portraits, floral subjects, and nostalgic drawings of Guyana.   

Brian  (2009), oil on canvas

Brian (2009), oil on canvas

To date, he is the only painter ever invited to exhibit at Australia’s largest national orchid show. In 2012, his painting, The Floral Double Pink Rose received an award in the category of best “professional artist”.   

Me-My-Shadow   (2003), oil on canvas

Me-My-Shadow  (2003), oil on canvas

Phillips is inspired by nature as evidenced by the above painting. He meticulously represents the delicacy, complexity, and strength of the petals.   

The Imputation of Judas  (2012), oil on canvas

The Imputation of Judas (2012), oil on canvas

As a realist, he is also inspired by the works of Peter Paul Rubens, Jacques-Louis David, and Francisco de Goya. Aside from nature, his subject matter includes people, places, and historical events.

Phillips’ artistic accomplishments are many and varied. He is an award winning painter, a designer, a manufacturer of art equipment, and a soon to be author. Currently, he is writing a book on his first major commission tentatively titled, The Dome.   


I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy."     

- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Like contemporaries Michel Keck and Devon E. Sioui, Alesol is a self-taught artist. She was born in Brazil but has lived in Germany for the past 19 years.

The Prince  (2012), oil on canvas

The Prince (2012), oil on canvas

One of Alesol’s earliest artistic memories is drawing on a wall inside her grandmother’s home. This act of artistic expression may have brought about chidings in some households; however, Alesol’s grandmother praised the drawing and the drawer. She proudly showed the penned vase and flower sketch to visitors. Her granddaughter was an artist. Having the approval of her grandmother gave Alesol the needed encouragement to continue her artistic exploration.

Upon moving to Germany, Alesol’s art expanded. The experiences of living among diverse populations in two different countries fuelled her desire to communicate. Her means of communication is painting. Alesol’s reason for painting is simple. She wishes to “express good energy and speak from her heart”. Fortunately for the viewer, this goal is achieved.

Rainbow   (2013), oil on canvas

Rainbow  (2013), oil on canvas

Alesol receives inspiration from traveling and is a keen observer of her surroundings. As an abstract artist, she seeks the essence of natural forces and phenomena. In Rainbow, the interplay of the colour spectrum is strikingly translated upon the canvas. 

Enchanter( 2011), oil on canvas

Enchanter(2011), oil on canvas

Alesol speaks of painting in a spiritual way. At times, she feels as if an outside force guides her hands. When viewing one of her works, it is as if a personal inner wall has been breached. The symmetry and vibrancy of colours transcend the canvas and interacts with the viewer. 

Waterfall  (2012), oil on canvas

Waterfall (2012), oil on canvas

For Alesol, each breath taken is not solely a function of biology, but a unifying act linking humanity. Nature in its grandeur and diversity inspires her. Her paintings have an ethereal quality. She skillfully taps into the essence of magnificence whether a surging waterfall or the radiance of a rainbow after a thunderous storm. The viewer is gingerly engulfed in a familiar and calming space.