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Where the wallpaper patterns become sheer drama

Dorothea Van Camp's "Chromakey Tree 2111," from 2021.Dorothea Van Camp

In Dorothea Van Camp’s painting/screenprint hybrids at HallSpace, upholstery and wallpaper patterns heave, twist, and flutter in unnervingly indeterminate spaces. The designs resound with household familiarity, but the way she pushes them insists on tension and change. She evokes rites of passage and the life cycle they usher us through.

The artist, a printmaker, rolls oil paint onto linen canvases or sheets of Yupo, an absorbent synthetic paper, creating a foggy space that evokes dream and memory, and layers screen-printed patterns into that mist. Several works feature a fine mesh that springs open from intense compression.

Dorothea Van Camp's "Standoff 2125," from 2021.Dorothea Van Camp

Two such eruptions, tight-fisted at the center and bursting like black fireworks, go at each other in “Standoff 2125.” The mesh could be that of veils worn at funerals, but here, instead of masking grief, they embody its density and wildness. They spar and argue against a pink ground layered with delicate gray floral patterns like gauzy drapes swaying in a hot breeze. The piece is at once languorous and explosive, like a Tennessee Williams play.

Dorothea Van Camp's "Reave 2113," from 2021.Dorothea Van Camp

From a distance, “Reave 2113” reads like a dark mountain landscape with light brimming between two peaks. Get closer and the mountains shrink to a vaporous flower, with that twisting mesh form, buttery yellow with wisps of purple, cradled by dark leaves over a deeply shadowed floral pattern. And in “Crinolines 2106,” white and yellow mesh sways like the voluptuous skirt of a wedding gown. Above it, florals twist and rise in white, black, and gray, almost coalescing into figures, ghostly attendants of a bride.


Dorothea Van Camp's "Crinolines 2106," from 2021.Dorothea Van Camp

These paintings hold a lot; in grief, hope and in hope, grief. The sheer propulsiveness of some of the patterns keeps the works from feeling sodden or sentimental, removing them from placid domestic interiors like the tornado carrying Dorothy off to Oz — while at the same time delivering us into the true, aching drama of life at home. In “Chromakey Tree 2111,” a pale yellow green foliate pattern spirals upward through a smoky haze as beneath it darker leaves droop and wilt under drips of white paint. One plant dies and another flowers. We are wrecked; we are rejuvenated. Life goes on.



At HallSpace, 950 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, through July 3. 617-288-2255, www.hallspace.org

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.