Drie Chapek’s paintings have roots in European art history and live in the present moment. I saw Fragonard and a little Tiepolo: All that movement in the sky, the sky rolling through space, and in one a figure dragging the sky down with him to bloom on the ground, like Christ descending the Cross. I like the fierce grace, everything Chapek erased from an old story and everything she left in. Remarkable too was how successful Chapek is in a small space, those short bursts, and also, how much more successful she is with more space to tell a whole story, what Paul Valery once called, the sensation of a story without the boredom of its conveyance.

By Regina Hackett

Drie Chapek’s paintings are psychic moments, embodied. These singular artworks depict the abstractness of that universal inner state of being we all experience, but can rarely assign to one specific moment in time: the state of transformation. Chapek speaks to the ongoing process of evolution that is constantly swirling around us and in us, a process that somehow manages to slip through our fingers, never visible in the moment. It is a process with a clear beginning – birth – and a clear ending – death. Although, as Chapek suggests, perhaps these delineators of the human experience are not so clear cut. Chapek’s paintings give physical form to the deepest paradox of life: that we are alive and dying at the same time.

Each of Chapek’s deliciously layered oil paintings captures the visceral weight of the human experience and the constant, grotesque decay of the physical body. Flesh-colored forms drip and rot, expand and contract. Bright pink blooms decompose and tumble while sunsets bleed across the sky into a soft yellow ground of steaming mud. And yet, somewhere in Chapek’s swirling layers of color and form, life is bursting forth. A new wave crests, a young petal rests lightly on the surface. 

When a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis in its transformation to butterfly, the process is messy. Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar – evolution as decay. Transformation is neither an ending nor a beginning, it is something of both. The beautiful violence of this shapeshifting is what Drie Chapek captures in her complex, multilayered paintings. Paintings that are simultaneously soft and sharp, flat and as deep as the ocean, fully alive and beautifully decomposing.

By Lauren Gallow