Zehring's Universal Language of Forms
"Circling the Light"
rectangular window within, through which we see yet
another circle, partially obscured by horizontal stripes. Interestingly,
although the square shape, as noted earlier, historically symbolizes
the male principle, the opening in this slightly askew rectangle, with
its labial folds along the edges, could suggest a womb.
In other paintings as well, Peggy Zehring employs
variations on these same simple shapes, variously combined and layered,
create a host of visually stunning and thought provoking compositions
with the power and presence of unique contemporary mandalas.
Zehring, who exhibited recently at Montserrat Gallery, 584 Broadway,
has traveled the world in search of what she calls "universal,
visual Truths from which to form a global unity of forms and symbols."
Recently, Zehring began a study of Sacred Geometry, utilizing the ratios
of irrational numbers, of which The Golden Mean is perhaps the best
known example. In her new body of work she uses The Golden Mean as an
underlying architecture, combining the square (which historically symbolizes
the masculine) and the circle (which symbolizes the feminine) to create
compositions with symbolic content equal to their visual presence. The
formal relationships that Zehring sets into motion by combining these
two archetypal shapes are invested
with a variety of readily accessible meanings proving that art is indeed
a universal language.
Tactile surfaces also play an important role in Zehring's
paintings. She employs sand, ash, marble dust, chalk dust, spackle,
and found objects with acrylic mediums as a binder to create a rugged
textural terrain that adds considerably to the presence of her
pieces. The relief-like quality of Zehring's paintings calls to mind
the contemporary Spanish master of "Art Informel," Antoni
Tapies. Like Tapies himself, Zehring reportedly
has an interest in Zen Buddhism, and
her paintings certainly do convey a pervading sense of spirituality.
Zehring, however, appears to proceed in a more premeditated way than
Tapies, judging from the strong formal organization of her compositions.
Also, while Zchring's surfaces are similarly
tactile to those of Tapies, her textures are more regular, applied in
a manner more precisely calculated in its density and sculptural effect.
In addition, Zehring's colors have a
burnished beauty, perhaps enhanced by the addition of metallic elements,
that lends her paintings a unique glowing quality. This further enhances
the spirituality that her work conveys, suggesting golden or silvery
auras that for all the physicality of her forms imbues them with a sense
of the ethereal. In his writings, Kant spoke of the "noumenon"
--the innate spirit of materials themselves, their autonomous sense-content;
yet Zehring imbues materials with a paradoxical sense of something transcendent
These qualities come across powerfully
in Zehring's composition "Circling the Light." Within a large
circle, a smaller circle is centered with a square shape superimposed
upon it. This rectangle has ragged edges, built up in relief, as though
some outer surface has been torn away, creating a slanted