Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The colour of silence

 The last exhibition by two visiting artists at St. John's featured recent work by Audrey’s Atkinson. 

Her work incorporates life drawing, photography, printmaking, painting, ceramics and silk-screen printed textiles with ideas emerging from numerous interesting sketchbooks. Recurring human forms and themes of architectural space and the effects of time on surfaces, a suggestion of projected or transferred photographic or cinematic narrative consisting of gestural human marks, calligraphic lines and layers of transparent and opaque paint both reveal and obscure the image. This painterly technique has been transferred through printmaking processes to functional and decorative fabrics like silk and linen, creating flexible and interactive works that extend the language of the paintings into fashion and textile design.

One painting in particular (below) has drawn me back repeatedly by its quiet insistence on measuring time and space. Contained within a simple flat square the painting, built up in opaque and transparent layers of paint, collage and transferred photographic fragments, seems to frame an inner square that recalls a wall, window or floor plan in the visual language of modern geometric yet painterly minimalism, reminiscent of a Kurt Schwitters collage. The muted colours and tinted whites, both smooth and gently textured, have the feel of plaster, paper or ink and explore an association between the various acts of writing, drawing, printmaking and projecting photographic images into and onto architectural spaces and surfaces.  Like silence, which is not without the background noises which one becomes aware of when the mind itself settles down, the painting presents an 'emptiness' in the centre of several peripheral points of focus towards the corners and sides where small rectilinear 'windows' open to reveal glimpses of space behind. The more one looks at the empty, white, bland centre the more it becomes 'full' as one adjusts to the finely calibrated close tones, textures and hues from which it is constructed or rather which remain behind as 'negative space' after the peripheral action of building up positive shapes has been completed. This is a painting that rewards contemplation by drawing in and enfolding the eye of the viewer through it undemonstrative gentleness in much the same way that the ear of the listener becomes more sharply attuned to a whisper in a quiet room by craning the head to catch the faint sound. 

A visit to Audrey's 'studio' reveals a similar aesthetic sense of spatial organisation, subtle muted colour, light and contrasts and an integration of art and life, action and contemplation. The paintings and fabric prints are enhanced perhaps by being stacked against walls in layers, hiding and revealing themselves simultaneously and extending the metaphor contained within the picture's frame into the frame of the room and beyond.  Audrey's work has developed significantly over the twenty years I have known her but it retains and increases its powerful expressive aesthetic qualities by compressing complex multiple layers of significant marks and gestures into a surface that is minimalist and simple and increasingly stripped bare of inessentials.