An exhibition of paintings by Alexandra Baraitser, Julie Fountain and Olha Pryymak
Curated by Alexandra Baraitser
A painting is finished only if it is painted with extraordinary sensitivity, with brushwork that enhances intimacy and intensity. Only then can the viewer truly contemplate it. And standing there in front of it in a quiet gallery, we are both looking and listening. The exhibition Silent Painting brings together three artists who use paint and mark making techniques to recreate two dimensional noiseless energy.
In Silence in the Age of Noise, Erling Kagge makes us aware of how silence can only be experienced when we shut out the noise of contemporary life. Experiencing painting in this exhibition might help us to tune out of the din and engage with the silence these artists create. Through the process of painting they provide a ‘pause’ button for modern life that enables us to think and focus when viewing the artwork. According to Plutarch’s phrase “Painting is silent poetry, and poetry painting that speaks”, painting can be interpreted directly by the observer as a tool for the expressive act of narration.
Rembrant’s painting Self Portrait 1669 was made at the end of his life when he was sixty three years old. The artist paints his own face with thick layers but is surrounded by darker thinly applied paint. The darkness reflects the old man’s mood as he contemplates his own demise and it seems he has nothing left to say. Other portraits are set up so that the sitter’s face is angled to catch the light: the illuminated visage contrasts with the brooding backgrounds adding to the reverent silence of the scene.
The artists showing at Tripp Gallery apply similar techniques to imbue the image with a symbolic dimension that speaks to the moment of having nothing left to say, when words and sounds fall silent. They also utilise visual, tactile and olfactory senses to tell their story.
Pryymak, for example, executes dramatically lit canvases depicting female figures in quiet contemplation. The smell and tactility of the herb-filled jars exhibited alongside them activate a sense of the uncanny. She writes: “These multi-sensory installations silently highlight an archaic revival as a take on future redemption”. Using anachronistic but realist imagery, Pryymak taps into her heritage for non-conformist ways of making wordless statements to address what art critic Ben Davis calls “the unspoken and intractably apocalyptic sense of the world”. In the installation at Tripp Gallery, the standard issue Soviet jars normally used for making home preserves now contain fragments of forgotten remedies.
Through painting Baraitser makes her own interpretation of iconic architecture and its associated lifestyle. The fashionable scenes displayed in her work are populated but focus on the non-communication or separation of each figure from the other. In the painting The Perfect 50s Housewife the artist infers an emotional absence. She is clearly inspired by the painter Edward Hopper. Her iconic frozen-in-time scenes allow a human presence, but the characters are speechless and isolated. The work shows an interest in the relationship between the figure and the space around them and the silences that this relationship produces.
Fountain’s work reflects the artist’s emotional landscapes and painting them is partly therapy for processing what she describes as her daily anxiety and unease. Paint and paper are useful tools for expressing the intensity of feeling within her relationship with her daughter and when reflecting on her own past childhood. The pieces are painstakingly constructed over a period of time and are solicitous works. They are not vibrant but have a delicate resonance that is concerned with freezing the film and capturing the moment(and feeling), in time.
The paintings in the show Silent Painting raise the question of whether painting has a voice. Maybe it does, but what is certain is that painting has the ability to touch on subjects that bring us to a psychological and material space where we can experience silence. As Ansel Krut writes “painting touches on the nature of silence, on distance and on exclusion. But most importantly, it touches on the privileges of looking.”
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