Ella Rose: Flood
5426 Monte Vista St
Los Angeles, CA 90042
In Lieu is pleased to present The Allotter, an exhibition of ten new paintings by Chicago-based artist Ella Rose Flood. This marks the artist's first exhibition in Los Angeles and with the gallery.
Ella and I have an electronic relationship. She gave me a tour of her work by Zoom, which was like peering down binoculars backwards. I could hear. I could see what I was shown. The camera closing in on rat’s paw prints; the optical illusion of approaching the bathroom corner and finding it was flat; a full screen of sunlit leaves, instinct making me squint and save my eyes from the imagined rays.
I’d assumed from our emails that she must be about my age. She is one third of my age. She knew me first as a perfumer, then found my email on a writer’s website and threw a message over the Atlantic. I caught it. I still write, but mostly I make aromas to capture a time and place, to wear or to transform a space: invisible paintings, unhearable songs, untouchable textures.
Ella magics reality from pigment, then plays with it to make it unreal again, baffling us kindly. I was watching my screen, waiting for Zoom to bring the familiar picture of BKS Iyengar into focus, then realized I’d been sweetly fooled. We share a link with Mr Iyengar. I had studied with his daughter. A waft of incense drops me straight into a class.
According to Patanjali, who wrote his guidelines around 3000 years ago, yoga is the quieting of the mind to achieve stillness. I found that I can quiet my mind by reading books and blending perfumes. My yoga is different. So is Ella’s, I think — when your work transcends the physical space that confines you, when you have the astonishing ability to paint whatever you want to see, that’s your ultimate freedom, isn’t it?
Watching my screen as Ella showed me her work, closing in and backing away, I needed to be in the room. I wanted to smell the atmosphere. Instead I imagined the aroma of old plaster and wood, new paint and imagination but still we were separated by a screen. I had to make do with sight.
We talked about the hyperrealism of sight and scent. How a glimpse of a familiar object or a waft of an everyday aroma out of place pushes us into another time. We talked about loss. Of people, and of the sense of smell. It’s hard for normosmics like us to imagine the olfactory silence that anosmics experience. Those of us who belong to the all-smelling world can use scent to time-travel, but only backwards. Our time machines can be mundane, like opening a pencil case and smelling college; the aroma of a bar of soap can whirl us into one corner of a bathroom. We’re hurled backwards by our overly protective minds, our accumulated memories of safety or danger making us feel before we know what exactly it is we’re feeling.
Humans unconsciously process information from the air; we can sense that people like us, whether we’re welcome or not. We do this just by breathing. When we talk about the atmosphere in a room – if a building feels friendly or not – that’s our sense of smell letting us know if there’s danger or if we’re safe. It’s always switched on.
Until suddenly it isn’t. Until recently hardly anyone knew that having your access to aromas taken away is a different kind of devastating. There’s a sense of nothingness, of disconnection
from the visible world, of mind-numbing loss and disappointment. Something which has always been there to protect us is missing, and we no longer know what to feel.
Feelings fall out of Ella’s paintings as you watch them. Not being in the room with them, I had to imagine that they swirl around like aromas do. Instead, we spoke down our Transatlantic wires about absence and isolation, vision and aroma, and how difficult it is in the modern world to find space to feel sadness without falling into gloom, or provoking people into fixing us. How significant objects and aromas can slam us into a memory, bringing pain or peace. Visible and invisible artwork.
It was much more cheery than it sounds.
Ella Rose Flood (b. 1999) is an artist based in Chicago. She recieved her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2021. Recent solo exhibitions include Lubov (New York) and Jargon Projects (Chicago) and recent group exhibitions include Harkawik (New York) and Jargon Projects (Chicago).