Layers and layers and layers of Clara Berta
I was warned!
Clara’s paintings dominate the hallway right outside her Downtown L.A. studio. It’s art from each of her styles, all of them abstract. Her Visions of Color series is what brought me here in the first place. Symphonic Afternoon is a good example of it.
The yellows and even rarer reds are attractive focal points, but the blue, all over the place, glows just as brightly in its own way. And so, the eyes dart around it in search of an anchor, finding one here and there and over there too. It’s actually so balanced that there is no sole focal point. You have to just keep taking the painting in, moment after moment.
“Clara tries everything, so she has many different styles in her art. I have many favorites, all in different series,” said Amber Goldhammer, who also paints her own sizable abstracts.
Clara is from Oradea, in the Transylvania region of Romania. She came to the United States as a girl. She came to Los Angeles in 1987. She did theatre acting. She did modelling. She did secretarial work. She sold her first painting in 2003. Today she’s got a spacious downtown LA studio, walls full of the fruit of her expressions. We had lunch together at Zinc. She told me I didn’t have to mention that she bought me lunch, but the truth is that everybody should buy me lunch. I love having lunch!
“I love her charisma, her laugh and her spice for life. You can’t help but be happy when you are around her,” Goldhammer said.
“Spectrum” is another study in color and balance. It’s wilder than the other one. The yellows, they make this thing seem wild. Blue streaks compliment them, but the white streaks really temper and control this painting.
It’s tempting to see white as an absence of color, but if I stare at it long enough I realize that the white directs and guides my eyes around.
What’s in the foreground is whatever you want to be in the foreground.
We ate dessert in her studio. There was another piece from her Visions of Color series behind her, still energetic but somehow muted. It had been an old painting, she explained, that she looked at again and carefully dripped layers of white over. Now it’s something new. There’s more texture and depth to it than there was before. And because it’s white, the adding looks like subtracting.
“Texture is so important, because it creates history,” she said.
Here’s something I didn’t expect.
In Clara’s Minimal series, an arrangement of marks resembling Eastern calligraphy is typically set against a one-color background. The black marks, assertive and dominant, rely on the warmth of the background (is that saffron? Apricot? Honey? I’ll go with apricot) to infuse the piece with a softness. It’s nothing like the dizzying abstracts of the Visions of Color series I like so much. This series, Clara says, is her biggest challenge.
“I have to learn to let go and allow things to happen.”
‘Miracle of Nature’ was hanging up in her studio. This is a very tricky one, inhabiting the zone somewhere between abstract and representational and challenging the viewer to question the relationship between the two (Do they clash? Do they complement?).
Where does a space like this exist in the world, and how does it feel to be in it? The dark colors (really laying on the Payne’s Gray!) tell you something, maybe. Maybe menacing, maybe mysterious as the title suggests. But then the mistiness calms and reassures, as it surrounds and softens the image.
“She’s able to experiment with so many different medums, and her art is so evocative of emotions,” said Kathy Pham, manager at Opodz and curator of an Aug. 18 show.
“Her use of paint flows like water,” Pham said.
When I take a second look at the Spectrum series, I see something I didn’t see before. It’s the layers.
“Clara loves texture, which add very interesting depths and elements to her artwork,” said Amber Goldhammer. And what Clara said about texture creating history, that was from the first 30 minutes of our meeting. The sense of depth between and beyond the colors, I couldnt’ see it until I took a good look at something with fewer colors.
Clara’s studio is downtown on 8th Street. You might even catch her during the monthly art walks, on the first Saturdays and second Thursdays of every month.