The Anglo-American artist Jo Nigoghossian has been living in Florida. Not exactly hiding out, but something close to it. Given that her paintings often focus on floral still life and its attendant death fixations, her adoptive home’s relentless snarl of plant life crawling with all manner of slithery, possibly venomous creatures has nourished the work and added a dimension of stylish menace.
As the artist puts it, “I am drawn to the swampy, jungly paths and go down the same one almost daily. I see energy in the plants and want some somehow. I’m seduced by the ‘unruly’, density, the charred browns and fluorescent greens, broken branches, tangled and knotted ropes, disheveled transplants and native mish mash – just a scruffy mess, but with a lot of logical movement”
As a result, we find that the arrangements of scavenged grasses and store-bought flowers have been colonized by snakes, clinging monkeys, strewn with hominid skulls and the severed feet of alligators. Her subjects are tightly framed on a simple tabletop with limited definition of background, creating a setting that is simultaneously neutral and claustrophobic.
This tendency is resolved in the paintings by blending staid traditionalism with the creeping dread of the Southern Gothic. Nigoghossian creates an atmosphere that is thick with allusion but resistant to conventional art historical symbolism lending the paintings a rare and delicious element of surprise.