When faced with a blank canvas in her Lowry studio, painter Alyson Khan knows exactly how to begin: She writes.
Khan scrawls a phrase, quote, or question to set her intention—something like Does your happiness matter? I would venture to say yes. “It becomes my first draft,” she says. “I just start building from there.” Khan covers the foundational words with layers of paint from an ever-changing palette that often includes earthy ochres, opulent turquoises, moody blacks, and feisty pinks to create dramatic, geometric shapes. The result, what she calls “a resolution,” is a conceptual representation of her emotional journey.
This exploratory process resonates with interior designers, art collectors, and even national retailers such as Anthropologie, which sold two of her prints in its spring 2018 collection. Several galleries, including Austin-based Wonderwall Studio, regularly feature her work (she sells her full collection through Saatchi Art online), and she’s in the early planning stages for a 2019 group show at Denver’s Space Gallery. And, this winter, West Elm’s holiday collection will include some of Khan’s pieces.
Khan began painting in 1999, but found her groove three years ago when she started making art fulltime. Her canvases feature strong horizontal and vertical anchors, compositions with intensity similar to Colorado’s sunny days. “When the sun comes out, it is so definite in how it moves,” she says. “When my eyes move around the canvas, I want the contrast between colors to be just as definite.” You can also see hints of her mathematical training (Khan took engineering classes at the University of Colorado Boulder): She applies precisely laid strips of tape to create hard-edged shapes. “I use the tape to map out what I’m seeing in the chaos,” she explains. When the tape comes off, she adds on layers until her visual story is complete. “There is a narrative,” Khan says. “It’s abstract, but each piece has something to say.”