Surface Tension

"There exists a tension in Ann Goldberg’s pool paintings, one not unlike the molecular cohesion of water itself. The crystalline waters of her Palm Springs resort pools are expertly portrayed, more real than real. They are charmingly evocative of hedonism and healing, and yet they are juxtaposed with the real-world context of a long California drought. In a state where water restrictions have become the norm, a resort with thirty-six pools seems almost comically out of place. Goldberg’s paintings play with this idea in a way that is both ironic and didactic.

Her concern lies with beauty. She seeks it out and catches it in subject matter that is ostensibly mundane, but in her hands it transforms into anything but. Objects and moments such as high heels, bowls of cherries, or the particular way a beam of light flirts with the surface of a pool are lovingly scrutinized and captured with absolute precision. Upon initial inspiration, Goldberg utilizes technology as a tool (capturing hundreds of high-resolution digital photographs in order to find the right image) and then edits for enhanced clarity, saturation and brightness if need be, imparting a deeper sense of authenticity through subjectivity. The sensorial experience of the final painting is positively synaesthetic. Her red apples gleam with a sweet stickiness, while her hyperreal treatment of water is deliciously glacial in spite of sunny surroundings. Looking at her work, the viewer is bathed in a veritable microcosm, where every sense is enthused and no detail spared.

This transient slip into the details almost allows one to forget the larger world outside of these waters, but not for long. It is a cleverly constructed meditation that replenishes and restores while at the same time emphasizing the aforementioned contrast between the fabrication of these resorts and the realities of our world. We are at a precarious point in both place and time, during which the ramifications of human activity on the atmosphere, land, and water are becoming increasingly and disturbingly evident. Resource consumption and industrial waste wreak unmitigated havoc on a fragile environment, and crises concerning tainted water in deeply vulnerable communities indicate the inextricable relationship between the environment and the current political landscape.

Therein lies the value of beauty as a mediator. In an interaction with something beautiful there is an initial attraction, a pull that draws the viewer in. Goldberg deliberately handles this attraction in her work, emphasizing its sensory aspects to their fullest advantages. However, there remains a level of discomfort with the utter hedonism that is made available. The painful question of how and why an excessive amount of water has ended up in thirty-six drought-addled Californian pools is unavoidable, and there remains awareness that the answer may be decidedly unattractive. Goldberg’s pool paintings titillate with candy-coloured objects, scintillating interactions between water and light, and a hypnotic formlessness that builds into perfect, crystalline precision. The surface tension builds the longer that one takes time to look."

Julia Trojanowski
Art Educator
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Toronto, Canada