Ragna Bley, “Witnesses” (2020), acrylic on sailcloth, 59 x 60 in. Courtesy of the artist and Downs & Ross New York (photo by Daniel Terna)
In nautical terminology, to “sound” is to measure the deep sea. Sounding, which dates back to the 19th century, was the first method of reaching beyond what the sun allowed us to see, in order to study the ocean floor. Today, echo sounding allows researchers to visualize vast bodies of water with corresponding colors — warm shades of red, orange, and yellow for shallows, and dark greens, blues, and purples to connote the depths.
Ragna Bley, a Swedish painter based in Norway, works entirely on her studio floor, pouring gallons of thinned paint onto primed sailcloth. Much like the late Helen Frankenthaler, who treated the seas of Cape Cod as her muses, Bley uses vibrant hues of the natural world to measure emotional depths.