Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bronwen Findlay

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I would like to focus on each of the 3000hours artists separately so today I will be exploring some of the works of Bronwen Findlay.
Bronwen Findlay lives in Johannesburg where she teaches and paints. She acknowledges the inspiration of cloth and textiles in her work which we can see in the image below, a luxurious burst of orange and gold and reminds me of Indian sari fabric. She has achieved a sequin-like effect by piping gold paint in dots to form the pattern of a flower. In her artists statement she asserts that the manipulation of paint, pattern and colour are her chief concerns in this particular exhibition, as are also long running themes in her work.

The tantalizing quality of this little painting, just under the size of an A4 page, seems to be fully realized in the work below, which is my favourite painting in this exhibition.

Painted and piped in subtle but dazzlingly reflective shades of gold and silver, it has all the luxury of yards of billowing silk fabric. There is a quality in it over-all-surface-ness (if you’ll excuse me coining a word) that I can only recall seeing in Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, in which strings of paint were layered over the surface of the canvas until a static-like web was formed.
One gets the distinct feeling when looking at this work that the canvas is merely a window onto an energy field – comprised of the shifting gold and silver – that is not brought to an end by the paintings dimensions, but continues to exist beyond these borders.
There is however a hint of the flower motif that runs through this body of work; large blooms and leaves are every so subtly piped onto the shining surface, but they do not sit above the surface or exist as a foreground to its background. Instead there is a unification of these two fields that is responsible for the work’s impressive unity. There is also a small square of subtle print fabric worked into the layers of paint, which just floats through, creating another mesmerizing dimension to this beautiful piece.
The last image I will be discussing today is one I find delightfully creepy. The reason for this is that, embedded into the paint is a wrinkled and characteristically textured snake skin. In a previous blog we looked at a similar small work in which, preserved in the paint, lay a half-decomposed flower and this piece is similarly eerie. The strange luxury of this discarded skin, a beautiful natural textile in its own right, is enhanced, once again, by Findlay’s use of gold, piped as in the other works into shimmering sequins of paint. The sequin effect echoes the pattern on the snakeskin and enhances its quality of abandoned finery.

Luxury, finery, natural abundance – these are all qualities I associate with this body of work. There is also the faintest hint of over-abundance, decomposition and decay which is the flipside of these earthly excesses. In Findlay’s work there is often a touch of the shadowy, a feeling of unease amongst wealth and surplus which brings a depth, an enigmatic quality, to her beautiful work.
To visit Bronwen Findlay’s webpage click on the link below.

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