The paintings of Los Angeles-based artist Theodora Allen (b. 1985, Los Angeles, CA) are quiet, restrained, and at times unsettling. Drawing from music, literature, myth, and nature, Allen’s meditative compositions investigate themes of temporality and eternity and explore the space between the physical world and the interior mindscape.
In recent bodies of work, Allen has presented images of celestial bodies, moths, serpents, delirium-inducing plants, and stringless guitars emerging from geometric structures and reliquary-like spaces. The emblems are introspective and elusive, conveying the tone of despondency and carrying 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 1960s California. Her emblems stand in as markers of time and symbols of persistence, the uncontrollable, and the inward looking.
Theodora Allen holds an MFA in painting from the University of California, Los Angeles, CA, a BFA in painting from ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA, and has completed a residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME. Allen’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Driehaus Museum, Chicago, IL (2022) and the Kunsthal Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark (2021).
Theodora Allen: Saturnine