In Memoriam: Anne Tabachnick

In a way I wonder whether Anne succeeded almost too well at reaching the peculiar sort of immanence the best painters achieve -- a kind of elusiveness, a being here and gone at the same time. Or maybe I'm just reacting to a sense that this woman's work never got the attention it deserved.

Or maybe it's just me. When I think of Anne I think of the odd and different ways we know someone -- when I was a kid, playing with my brothers on the beach with David and Felicity, there she was, my mother's nice friend. But as I grew older I became aware of her work -- which wasn't hard, because during the seventies my mother collected more of her paintings, and I suppose you might say what I didn't learn about painting from Silvia I learned by living with Anne's work, so I'll admit I was bound to fall in love with her canvases.

Again, she was present as an artist -- but absent as far as much of the art world was concerned -- but in Anne's case I think this was a price in the end she didn't mind paying for the sake of the work, especially given her feelings about much of that world. She wanted little more than to be able to produce her beautiful, surprising works. Surprising is the word -- it's certainly how she liked to present her skewed view of things, as much when she was painting as when she was talking to you. But personally I was often floored at finding that someone so who was so outspoken and passionate could be so quietly cunning in her paintings.

Because the richness of her work wasn't simply in the store of subtle effects or her great sorts of visual puns, but in the deep (and sometimes hidden) expression of thoughts and feelings -- which are also easy to miss, and take for granted, because she so often used them to portray the simplest of ordinary objects, and because the surfaces of her paintings are so beautiful in themselves.

Sometimes her paintings seem to pose a riddle to me, and when I look at them I just smile. She seems to be making light of a sad mood, for instance. Sometimes, I admit, there are times when I think I see something in a Tabachnick painting which is almost scandalous -- a red asterisk-looking thing seems to point to a personal erotic footnote, or everything in the landscape seems to defer to a kind of dopey but endearing phallus laid out against a pale cityscape -- a sort of double or triple or quadruple entendre which again, is all the more compelling for sneaking up on you.

One of the lessons I am sure that Anne learned involved a simple evolution of taste, and I believe that for intelligence which called attention to itself she simply had no faith, or trust, or most important, love. She was seldom comfortable talking about her work, and I'm sure it was because she loathed pedantry, and because to call attention to anything in it would be to betray the experience of looking, or might be a kind of pandering or publicity. As though the body of her work were a very close friend or lover and if you had any problems with it, you'd better sort them out yourself.

Even if I'm wrong about all this, if there is nothing else I feel compelled to say, it's this: Anne was in many ways the truest artist I ever knew, and I feel privileged to say that I knew her, and I continue to be inspired by her toughness and her integrity.