Theodora Allen’s paintings are quiet, restrained, and at times unsettling. Drawing from music, literature, myth and nature, Allen’s meditative compositions investigate themes of temporality and eternity, exploring a space between the physical world and an interior mindscape.

In recent bodies of work, Allen has presented images of celestial bodies, moths and serpents, delirium-inducing plants, and string-less guitars emerging from geometric structures and reliquary-like spaces. The emblems are introspective and elusive, carrying the tone of despondency and the weight of existential inquiry.

Through a rigorous painting process, Allen’s evocative imagery becomes ghostly. Allen paints in thin, meticulous layers of watercolor and oil on linen. Translucent coats of oil paint are applied and removed until the fabric itself shows the weather of its making. In this action, the artist’s process is a mediation between defining and dissolving the picture plane. Sources of illumination, like a candle or moon, play an important role in radiating light throughout the composition. Evanescent surfaces, polluted spectrums, and radiant jewel-toned blues animate the forces of darkness and light.

Allen’s motifs engage with a visual language of utopian and metaphysical ideals, resonant in the work of visionary poet and painter William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, early Symbolist painting, and the zeitgeist of 1960’s California. Her emblems stand in as markers of time, symbols of persistence, the uncontrollable, and the inward-looking.

Born 1985 in Los Angeles, USA, Allen received her MFA in Painting from the University of California. The artist has mounted solo exhibitions at Blum & Poe and UCLA, and been included in group exhibitions at Sprüth Magers, Galleri Nicolai Wallner and Berggruen Gallery.

Image: Theodora Allen, Monument, No. 3, 2018, oil paint and watercolor on linen, 67 x 57 inches, 170.2 x 144.8 cm. Photo by Heather Rasmussen.

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