FOREWORD: NOVEMBER 2021

By Oliver Munday

The artist Piet Mondrian said, in a deceptively simple formulation, that “everything is expressed through relationships.” Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve been forced to confront our relationships—with each other, with the external world—and Genevieve Cohn, a painter in Platform’s November selection, speaks fluently to this in her work; in Wrapped and Woven, two women weave a delicate geometry of string between their hands. In Now We Wait, a figure with fingers twined in string is attached to someone—or something—beyond the frame. Taken as a diptych, the pieces evoke connection—the striving for and creation of it. The viewer feels close to Genevieve’s subjects, and through this intimacy something larger and more universal emerges—the sense of a world being created.

The act of viewing art has gained a new frequency resulting from the pandemic’s specific sense of shared experience. We are all, here and now, in this. We know what lock-down is, how our glasses continue to fog above our masks, and maybe how to bake a little better. When looking at Emily Gossiaux’s drawing, We Woke Up Surrounded by Trees, one recognizes a small moment of joy—a woman and her dog lying in grass together—but also how important it is to retreat from the constriction of indoors.

After spending time with this month’s varied selection of artwork, one is tempted to argue that art’s power to respond to a volatile, indifferent world has never been more important. That it is a necessity.

Art, as a tool of sense-making and order, shares a lot in common with mythology, and it is sometimes true that the two work in tandem. The paintings of Asif Hoque, explicit in their mythic invocations, show robust winged horses and deities dancing in the clouds. In the case of Hwi Hahm and Kevin Tobin, the symbolism is cruder, less apparent, yet equally urgent. Their canvases read like otherworldly warnings.

There are, of course, simpler and less cosmic ways of responding to the world—like rendering your own. This may take abstract form like Tomory Dodge’s paintings with their rudimentary glamour, or the intricately structural drawings of Deb Sokolow. But life can also be portrayed in a more literal sense, as in the gestural, naturalistic scenes of Nicole Wittenberg. The weight of the world comes through in the dashed wisp of a cloud as much as it does in a solid swath of color.

Perhaps it is those familiar spaces that have ended up looking the most unusual to us after months isolated and socially cordoned. The surfaces and textures over which our eyes regularly pass may be transfigured when scrutinized. In Jenny Morgan’s Incantation, an atmosphere takes hold, a hazy sense of time’s passage as one glimpses ripples in fabric. Through her work, she proves that beauty can arise from the mundane in unexpected ways if you care to look hard enough.

Who among us hasn’t had to reconsider their connections—to each other, to the world—over the last year and a half? Who hasn’t felt their lives contract? Their relationships explode? But I dare you to observe these works of art without recognizing the possibilities sketched, the humanity explored, the splendor of life laid bare. Everything has changed, not least of all us, but sometimes a re-evaluation occurs just moments before revelation.

Discover all of Platform's November 2021 artworks.

Oliver Munday is a designer and writer based in NYC, and the author of Don’t Sleep. He currently works as the design director of The Atlantic magazine. Visit his work: Olivermunday.com