Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Eliza John and Wendy Smith

Going to the Hastings Art Forum is always a pleasure and always a surprise. I have seen a huge variety of work there just in the last two months and the new exhibition of paintings by Eliza John and Wendy Smith is different again.

Eliza John’s work touches on themes of family, friendship, place and occasion. She mostly uses oils but also works with combinations of acrylic, watercolour, gouache and charcoal. Most of her paintings are an interplay of abstraction and figuration from which shapes, figures and landscapes emerge.

Scenes and characters melt into the texture and colour of the paint giving impressions of the personalities depicted or reflecting the delicate intimacy of relationships. Sometimes the figures are sublime shadows standing ghost-like against beautiful combinations of background colour. Occasionally, there is an underlying emotional ambiguity in her scenes or characters which can make for uneasy viewing. This is balanced by work using lighter spectrums that allow moments of exquisite stillness and calm subtlety. 

The amount of work here combined with the variety of sizes, colours and frames sometimes makes it difficult to focus on any one piece. However, it is worth taking time to appreciate the fine line between the abstract and the figurative in this work and what it communicates about human perception. There is fascination in believing you see a scene from afar that then clouds over into abstract colour as you get closer.

The work of Wendy Smith also combines abstract and figurative but the contrast between the two artists gives the viewer a completely different experience. There are fewer pieces but they are larger and her palette is bright and colourful. Where figures are present they are from nature - leaves, trees or birds in flight.

The freedom of application sometimes makes it seem as if the paint had jumped there by itself and combined with the colour choices the effect is one of exhilaration and joy. In some cases the limited use of paint leaves white spaces within each work and this adds to the sense of light and airiness around it. Walking into the gallery from a grey and rainy day is like walking into summer. It's worth a visit for that reason alone. 

Although the spectrum and style of each of these artists is very different, both use their mediums freely and both work within the shifting boundaries of figurative and abstract expression. It is in the contrast, however, that the show is complete. The two rooms complement each other beautifully with a sense of lightness and space in one and darkness and intensity in the other. Dipping between the two enables the viewer to shift between two different experiences of art and of life. 

Eliza John and Wendy Smith
Hastings Art Forum
12 - 24 July 2016
Private View - 5.00 - 7.00 Saturday July 16th.  

1 comment:

  1. Very well written preview. I loved the line about the paint in one picture almost looking like it got there itself. It seems that the Hastings Art Forum always has something of interest, whether it's specifically your bag or not.