Monday, December 14, 2009

FIndlay and Payne - light and texture

Today I’ll be looking at the use of texture and light reflection in Bronwen Findlay and Merle Payne’s work.
The detail below is the corner of the wall panel by Merle Payne and Barok discussed in the last blog. 

While previously I focused on the originality of the design, one cannot fully appreciate textiles until one can see them close up (and ultimately – be able to touch them.) Barok uses only the finest materials to make their beautiful works, 100% cotton, silk and wool. The combination of these fabrics creates incredibly rich surface, one that is just begging to be touched. In this way the embroidery and appliqué remind me of braille and reiterate the feeling that one of the wonderful things about art of the female domain is its lack of highbrow aloofness – to be unable to touch artwork is something I am always restraining myself against and I know this is the case for many! The welcoming quality, the inclusiveness, of art of this genre makes it far more valuable and meaningful than it is often given credit for in what remains a largely patriarchal system.
Embellishment is central to Payne’s creative process and in particular she likes to fuse the textiles of different cultures creating a beautiful and moving hybrid. Sometimes her influences will be mainly African, utilizing the traditional embellishments of Xhosa, Venda, Zulu, Ndebele and Shangaan textiles, but she also collects and uses vintage fabrics which include Japanese prints.
In this particular piece, the addition of shiny light reflecting buttons adds another point of interest to the whole. Each button is individual and contains a tiny picture – worlds within worlds!
The sumptuous image below is the work of Bronwen Findlay and combines the use of textiles and paint in a way that marries the two wonderfully.

The antique gold present in the classic textile design is carried through the rest of the canvas in organic loops and swirls that echo the floral design of the cloth. The design of the cloth enters the domain of the paint and the paint runs into the fabric creating unity and a sense of flow and movement across the surface. The background is silver and an interesting tension develops between the two materials as the light catches the canvas from different angles. The use of light-reflective materials (the gold and silver paint) creates a work that interacts with light and movement.

I am reminded of a story about Monet attempting to paint pheasants. He was incredibly frustrated by the fact that if he moved back and forth the iridescent plumage flashed red or green or a combination of both but was never static. For an artist bent on pinning down the qualities of light one can imagine how frustrating this must have been.
In the case of Findlay’s painting, the work has become the pheasant (so to speak!) – It is a 3-dimensional object that reacts to light. It does not exist only on a two dimensional level as the representation of something but exists as a thing in itself - an art object rather than a straight painting.
In this respect the link to the work of Merle Payne resurfaces once again in the existence of an art-piece that is an object of value, a physical, non-abstract creation whose significance lies, not in the conceptual, but in the actual.

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