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St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 16, 1995


By Carol Ferring Shepley

Ten small works hanging in the Left Bank Books' exhibition space explore the concept of writing itself, of that which is beyond writing and of the afterthought.

In short, the subject is the post script or Post (S)criptum, as artist Nancy Exarhu self-consciously titles her show, perhaps in an attempt to draw upon the homonym "crypt" and thus pull in a reference to death and the passage of time.

The works are covered in layers of cursive, some of which appears to be writing in the Greek alphabet and the rest of which seems so scribbled that the meaning is equally beyond interpretation. Thus the writing becomes both a thing and a pictorial element and not a device to convey meaning.

The artist makes us think about what happens in our minds in the presence of the written word; about how important it is to us; and about how text surrounds us rather than having us focus on the conventional meaning of each word and sentence. In some cases, the writing is scratched in white against a black ground so that negative space or nothingness carries the message.

Their philosophical meaning aside, Exarhu's pictures are lovely. Heavily worked pastel surfaces have an atmospheric quality. The artist adds paint and then removes it, both by rubbing it off and by scratching writing into it.

Collages of old photographs and schematic drawings of architectural elements and the signs of the zodiac are pasted into layers of paint. Although Exarhu's works contain many recognizable details, they seem to be just parts of a pictorial whole rather than significant in and of themselves.

These mixed media pieces read more like objects than images. They recall old walls in Mediterranean villages where posters are pasted, partly torn away and then skim coated over with more plaster.

Thus, they seem to represent time passing and layer upon layer of meaning. They practically have a patina of age.
As carefully worked and reworked as these images are, they have a precious quality. While their delicate colors and veils of atmospheric effect are quite pleasing to the eye, they lack boldness. And their very prettiness can distract from the concept Exarhu attempts to spin out layer upon layer, hoping to come up oyster-like with a pearl but sometimes only rendering mother of pearl surfaces.

Copyright 1995 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Record Number: 9503150404

© 2008 Nancy Exarhu-Holtz