10 artists, 10 weeks-Week 10. Michael Hayter
Confrontational and uncompromising, Michael plunders the abstract messiness of what it is to be human and comes up with powerful figurative narratives that can be tough to look at.
His subject is his own psychological journey. He is the main protagonist in the drama and struggle that all artists must engage with if they are to produce meaningful authentic work. This is the thread that links good contemporary art to all great art of the past. I feel the tug of that thread on a deep psychic level when I look at Michael’s paintings. I am reminded at times of the narrative works of Ken Kiff.
All possible emotions are present, anger, sadness, despair, humour and love along with a certain meditative quality all in the narrative and application of paint and mixture of media that can contain hair, sugar and saliva.
In ‘Into The Arms of Endymion’ a naked figure wrestles with a mythical dark clown like figure of his alter ego. Animals are sometimes present either alone or entwined in some way with the figures. In ‘Man & Ape’, the two figures are locked in an embrace that completely obscures the man’s face. In most cases human faces are hidden, turned away, wreathed in the clouds as in the ‘Mystery of being’ or headless as in ‘The argument’.
In ‘P.A.Y.E’ a character on the run is caught in a net, thrown by his unseen pursuers. He covers his face with despair.
10 artists, 10 weeks-Week 9. Maggie Royle
Maggie’s collection of works on paper ‘Leaving there too soon’ are full of pathos. They give me a lump in my throat and I am finding it difficult to describe and explain my reaction.
Monochromatic formalised head and shoulder portraits of fashionable 18th century women are placed alongside coloured ‘abstract’ improvisations.
The portraits are contained within a frame, like a photograph, the ‘abstractions’ float freely on the paper. There are two separate versions of each portrait one on the left and one on the right, but with different ‘abstract’ renderings.
The portraits on their own do not offer many clues. There are hints of impending violence. A sharp knife in ‘q’ and what could be fire in the background of ‘dd’. Their future is uncertain.
The women stare out with resignation and sadness.
It is the abstractions and the portraits together that trigger an emotional response. Revealing a dark anguish behind the blank expressions of the women. Are they perhaps innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of conflicts beyond their control?
I understand now that their fate is inevitable and imminent.
Severed heads and featureless faces are suggested as a contemporary response to the fate of these anonymous re-contextualised women long dead and forgotten.
10 artists, 10 weeks-Week 8. Jess woodrow
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Jess’s intense paintings are containers of potentially vast spaces painted on a very small scale.
Sometimes taking months to resolve these thickly painted deckled edged textured objects are imbued with the intimacy and romance of a long deeply felt relationship with the Welsh landscape.
In her studio, Jess draws my attention to a tiny new painting that looks like the sea bed. Painted in very dark turquoise I say that I could imagine swimming underwater towards a small gathering of texture in the centre. Jess immediately says ‘but you would have to swim forever’.
As soon as she says this, impossibly, the painting starts to grow. Stand back and distances increase. I’m convinced that this strangely claustrophobic space is infinite.
Back on land again colours are beautifully soft. Greys and greens merge with small amounts of rich reds and oranges to form what could either be small hillocks in the foreground or distant mountains. A strip of yellow could be the beach meeting an outcrop of rock or a field of rape with two deep furrows taking the eye into the distance. There is the beach again dark pink this time against almost black rocks. The sky is a murky green and painted with a couple of sweeping brush strokes that seem to press down on the rocks. In another new piece an intense wall of fire is burning in black and red meeting a strip of pale grey in the foreground.
With every encounter Jess’s small paintings work their way just a little bit further into your psyche, planting a seed of desire and longing for something that is always just out of reach.
Ruth Piper August 13th 2012
10 artists, 10 weeks-Week 7. Midge Naylor
It was Midge’s small painting ‘Max Ernst’s Trampette’ hanging in the 2011 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, that drew the attention of Spectator journalist Andrew Lambirth.
Revealing her sharp wit and dark humour, this particular painting represents Midge at her best. There is a suggestion of a dense dark forest. A small red circle hovers in front of the trees. In the foreground is a strip of white ‘clearing’ with a roughly scratched shape, the ‘trampette’ of the title.
This reference to the surrealist painter Max Ernst brings to mind his painting ‘Forest and Dove’ painted in 1927 that in turn stirs a childhood memory of my own deep fear of the woods.
The Tate gallery display caption for the painting reads:
‘Forests appear frequently in Ernst’s works and recall his feelings of the ‘enchantment and terror’ of the woods near his childhood home. Forests are a potent symbol in German tradition, and were also adopted by the Surrealist group as a metaphor for the imagination’
The dark in Midge’s paintings has fascinating depths. Where there is light it is rendered as subtle and soft like moonlight on water.
She declares a desire to eliminate the horizon but she is a natural painter of dark brooding landscapes inhabited by strange shapes, suggesting furniture or machinery. There are tall ‘cliffs’ or large clumps interrupting the view. The horizon is either very near the bottom or the top. ’Skies’ are grey or black. There are many layers of paint, scuffed, scraped and buffed. They reveal an intense psychic search for, in her own words, ‘formal unity’.