Maui, HI | Painter
Khalilah Birdsong is a visual artist with a studio practice based in Maui, Hawaii. She creates large-scale abstract paintings that explore issues of depth and line. Fields of variegated color serve as her foundations: multi-hued paint progresses across the canvases, artfully uneven in saturation, conjuring a sense of movement and force. Various marks punctuate the painted surface, a static-like effect that suggests abrasion and wear. Neither entirely harmonious nor discordant, Birdsong’s color palette presents more juxtapositions still. Studying the alternating hues, a viewer may come to see the way that one color, barely visible in the finished surface, can serve to gird and guide the layers that succeed it.
The scale and evidence of physicality of Khalilah’s paintings echo Alfred Leslie, Joan Mitchell, Jean Riopelle and the late abstract paintings of Gerhard Richter. Her work differs from many of these early abstract painters in that while many of those artists were tied to references to nature, and a looser freer gesture, she combines physicality with a precision and a finely calibrated balance in her work. This speaks to her own personal gestalt, rather than to any movement or school of painting defined by social milieu or a specific time.
Birdsong has paintings in private and corporate collections around the world, including commissioned works. Further, her work can be found in President Barack Obama’s private collection, which is being considered for his Presidential Library.
View Artist Statement
I am interested in survival and resurgence. Distress, weathering is palpable on the canvas, but so is resurgence. I build layers up and then take them away to create a painting that is, ultimately, whole. The process of layering and stripping builds contusions, bumps and raw ridges, but also reveals patches of older, more forgotten colors. Every painting is an experience through process, which translates to the canvas to create a story that can only be experienced visually. My process is strenuous to the medium. Through it, my paintings achieve resolution.
Oil paint on canvas