ANN CRAVEN (b. 1969)
ANN CRAVEN (b. 1969)
ANN CRAVEN (b. 1969)
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The Collection of Thomas and Doris Ammann
ANN CRAVEN (b. 1969)

I Wasn't Sorry, 2003

ANN CRAVEN (b. 1969)
I Wasn't Sorry, 2003
signed, titled and dated 'A. Craven 1⁄03 "I Wasn't Sorry"' (on the overlap); signed, titled and dated 'Ann Craven, 2003 "I Wasn't Sorry, 2003"' (on the stretcher); signed, titled and dated 'Ann Craven, 2003 "I Wasn't Sorry, 2003"' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm.)
Painted in 2003.
Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert, Inc., New York
Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Brought to you by

Michael Baptist
Michael Baptist AVP, Co-Head of Day Sale

Lot Essay

I Wasn’t Sorry, 2003 is a poignant and lyrical canvas, a highlight in her rigorous practice that treats the details of the natural world with poetic seriousness. Craven’s paintings, meticulously recorded with the date and time of their creation, are a memento and testament to memory and empathy, rendered with great skill and reverence for art history. Inspired by her summers in Maine, Craven’s work seeks to preserve time and thoughtfully consider new ways to mark it, turning an everyday motif of moons, birds, and flowers into an oeuvre of lush illustrations and landscapes. Unique among artists working in representational painting, Craven’s object is not specificity, but rather the universality of feeling. The flora and fauna featured in the present lot live in perpetuity as messengers, offering connectedness to those who might find themselves somewhere within the landscape.

Measuring just over five feet tall, I Wasn’t Sorry, 2003 features three small birds, a subject central to Craven’s practice since the late 1990s. Inspired by illustrations found in her Italian grandmother’s decorative ornithology books, the scene is both real and surreal. Enveloped by an underscoring darkness that emphasizes Craven’s deft use of color, the grouping resembles a play in which the actors whimsically dialogue. The scene transforms into a stage that also recalls Dutch still life works of the seventeenth century. Perched on a branch, like musical notes on sheet music, two birds are an intrepid red-orange, almost salmon, while the third is a more somber gray, with splashes of yellow and wings gracefully tipped with white. The branches are rendered with exquisite detail, resembling verdant extensions of the birds’ dainty, grasping feet. Surrounding them are the fruits and leaves of a hawthorn tree, whose berries survive through winter and add color to a season of whites and greys. Prominent in folklore for centuries and representative of hope for the Victorians, the hawthorn tree in Craven’s world shines through the darkness with joy.

Craven’s work draws similarities to another masterful painter of nature, Agnes Martin. Theorizing a potential connection in their work, artist Keith Mayerson observes, “A work of art operates in a critical discourse as language within a larger culture. There isn’t one truth: rather, there is a multiplicity of truths that allows for a work of art to simultaneously exist within ideology and be critical of the culture in which it is produced” (K. Mayerson, “The Sublime Beauty of the Everyday Miracle,” Animals Birds Flowers Moons, New York, 2021, 3). Martin and Craven, in their respective use of abstraction and figuration, both distill the syntax of nature into a force that emanates beyond the canvas, leading the viewer to question the divisions between images, humanity, and the natural world. Always optimistic, Craven emphasizes the sentimentality of ornate ornithological illustrations. She presents serialized images with a wide range of emotional connotations and frees them from their original context, empowering them to resonate infinitely for each viewer.

Craven pushes boundaries and notions of painterly decorum and taste. As artist David Salle writes of Craven’s work, “[She] has a refined pictorial intelligence—the instinct to apply her talent to particular, sometimes provocative, compositional choices. Such as: how about letting the beech tree fill the canvas; how about birds silhouetted against a pink gelatinous mass; how about black on black, or red on red?” (D. Salle, “Ann Craven and the Art of Happy Hands,” Ann Craven, New York, 2018, 1). Craven thus asks a series of questions of the medium, often returning to works again and again, repainting to create new iterations of each work. Consequentially, the sister painting to I Wasn’t Sorry, 2003 resides in Craven’s own personal collection.

I Wasn’t Sorry, 2003 is emblematic of the spontaneity found within the natural world. With the three birds side-by-side on a perch, they engage in personified discourse, narrating the unseen. Drawn from both photographs and plein air painting, Craven’s work is both a reverence to Pop Art and a survey of remembrance and memory.

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