Watercolor Accentuates the Surreal and Metaphorical Nature of Annalise Neil’s Cyanotypes

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A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

“State Change” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches. All images © Annalise Neil, shared with permission

A “pursuit of the unknown” grounds Annalise Neil’s practice. An enduring curiosity and a desire to find answers shape both her approach to and the form of her works, which layer watercolor accents atop cyanotypes. The pieces depict the unassuming and magnificent, “the tender yet muscular emergence of mushrooms from soil, the brittle and also supple curve of a snail’s shell, the translucent husk of a crinoid on the beach.”

Constructed with hundreds of hand-cut negatives, the composites veil flora and fauna in shades of blue, evoking the color’s ubiquity within the natural world and the mysteries humans have yet to uncover. Lined with yellow or rusty-colored pigments, the works feature familiar subject matter with positions and scale that veer toward the surreal: large hands descend upon an arid desert landscape, birds escape from a trio of shapes that evoke a mushroom cloud, and flowers, butterflies, and dewy spores encircle a central bloom.

These unearthly pairings allow “for a re-thinking of the human’s relationship to reality and our surroundings,” Neil shares, an impulse that also informs her desire to reconsider and better understand change and possibility. “I believe metaphor is the most effective illuminator of new concepts and is an excellent midwife for empathy. One of the most fecund qualities of the human mind is our ability to ask questions, be curious, and make adjustments.”

Neil’s solo show Holobiont is on view through March 30 at Herrick Community Health Care Library in La Mesa, California, where she lives. The artist is currently preparing for a February residency at Playa Summer Lake and will open an exhibition at Sparks Gallery in San Diego this summer. Until then, explore an archive of her cyanotype series on her site and Instagram.

 

Two cyanotype composites of flora and fauna with rust watercolor details

Left: “Recalibration” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 24 x 18 x 1 inch. Right: “Vivify” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Hahnemuhle Sumi-e paper mounted on wood panel, 7 x 5 x 1 inch

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna and large drops

“San Diego/Sequoia National Forest/Cleveland National Forest: Chandelier Drops, Salp, Velvetleaf Pods, Wood Knot, Son, Sierra Tiger Lily, Corn Lily” (2020), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 11 x 14 x 1 inch

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna with a red line through the center

“Latitudinal Flow” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 6 x 6 x 1.5 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

“Propulsive Molt” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper mounted on wood panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna with chains connecting three bowls

“Ancestral Accretion” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Mohachi Shikishi paper, 11.5 x 9.5 inches

A detail of a cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

Detail of “Dynamic Mutuality” (2021), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper, 8.75 x 16.75 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna with yellow details

“Extremophile Corridors” (2022), watercolor and cyanotype on Hahnemuhle Sumi-e paper mounted on wood panel, 11 x 14 x 1 inches

A cyanotype composite of flora and fauna

“Dynamic Mutuality” (2021), watercolor and cyanotype on Arches Aquarelle paper, 8.75 x 16.75 inches

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