Sunday, 10 January 2010

Personal & Magical Spaces

Hello everyone.

As often happens, I found myself sneaking into the gallery early this morning and those of you who have already visited will understand exactly why. Indeed, some of you have already made a second visit! The paintings on display are definately the kind to spend time with.
I am so pleased with how the gallery looks just now. It feels both magical and mysterious with the works of Olivia Irvine and Fiona Jappy gracing the walls.The work of both artists is complementary and have similar motivations, however the resulting paintings are very different, offering an exhibition of contrasting beauty and style.
Here are a couple of personal favourites...the curators choice if you like:

"Passer-by" by Fiona Jappy.
I am becoming quite obsessed by this piece. The skill and painterly technique here is second to none. It's so soft and mysterious.....a really beautiful painting.

"Reception" by Olivia Irvine.
I think "Reception" speaks for itself.


I Just wanted to point out how well this piece has been executed.
Both artists have worked incredibly hard for this exhibition and we are very grateful for all their efforts. This show has been months in the making and both Olivia and Fiona have painted with honesty and conviction which, I believe, to be one of the factors that that makes this exhibition of such high calibre and so special.
In the months leading up to the exhibition we were lucky enough to have been able to visit Olivia's studio a few times. I love studio visits and find them invigorating and inspiring. It also reminds me of what being an artist is all about. I think it's important to visit the artists' studio, as you can get a real sense of the person and can "bond" with the work on a new level. Working towards an exhibition is a very solitary and doubtful time for an artist and I believe it helps for someone else to come in and say the work looks amazing and that you should be proud be of yourself. You also never know what you might come across. Sometimes you stumble across a little treasure that no one else has ever seen before....amazing!
As any artist knows the studio space is a deeply private and personal place. I know that many artists have, like me, experienced the extreme highs and lows in their place of work. All artists are different: I personally like to go into the studio (although sadly it's been a while) for a long "stint". I sometimes think it like a time warp where 4/5 hours can seem like half an hour. It's almost like being in a trance: you are so focused on what you are doing, everything else is blocked out.
Anyway an artist's studio space is where all the action happens. The space where you can get a euphoric rush when a painting is going so could even be you best work yet! The place where you discover a new technique, a perfect colour combination or a beautiful texture. It's also the place where I know many an artist gets a heavy heart and give themselves a brutally hard time. If it's not working, then you're rubbish and not trying hard enough. I'm also pretty sure that many an artist has experienced that sinking feeling when you think you have completely ruined a piece: it all happens in the studio.
Unfortunately, we were unable to visit Fiona's studio up in Elgin....although it may still happen! I would love to get in there. I want to see and experience at first hand the place where an individual creates works of such "desolate beauty", as a recent gallery visitor described them. However, we are lucky enough to get this sneaky peek into the world of Fiona Jappy.

Just like Fiona - very tidy and organised. I smiled at the little blow heater....a must in many a studio during the winter months.
I happen to know that Fiona becomes so engrossed when working on a new body of work that she will get out of bed at 2.00am to write down an ideas or sketch. Again, part of this exhibtion includes Fiona's and Olivia's sketch books,working drawings and even personal effects that helped inspire the works. Definately worth a look, they give a fascinating insight to the mind of the artist. Fiona's work is an autobiographical account of her return home to Scotland after a lengthy period painting in the States. Her "true" sketch book doubles up as her personal diary so we are unable to share that with you. but we have some intriguing drawings and pesonal notes which I find fascinating. I love spotting little "clues" in her research material that appear in the final paintings:

It's difficult to make out the shadowy figure in "Elsewhere", but it is a good example.
I was at Edinburgh College of Art the same time as Fiona, and those in the know could tell her work was special.

Here is a little insight into Olivia Irvine's personal space:

I got very excited in here, although I did my best to hide it and remain cool-ish. On first viewing Olivia's work I can honestly say it was love at first sight. The response was instant: a combination of excitement, intrigue and total appreciation. Olivia's work gets a similar reponse to Henry Kondracki's "Ice Cream Van" and "Dofos" paintings. I just wanted to marvel at more and more of her work. As with Fiona, Olivia paints with total conviction, with themes of home, family holidays, her children, childhood and play providing a constant inspiration. Olivia's work is magical and captivating and her studio space is exactly the same. You can feel the energy in Olivia's studio and you can't help but pick up the little dollies and clothing that appear in her work.

"Golden Chain".
To me this painting is an entire fairy tale in itself which you could wonder about for a life time. I am in awe at how the dressing table mirror has been painted and of the light pouring through the windows in the foreground.

I took this detail from "Golden Chain" as I find it fascinating.
Olivia Irvine paints in oil and egg tempera, always making a controlled decision on where to use the egg tempera. Indeed, Olivia's work in egg tempera has led her to be considered an expert in this ancient field of practice by her peers. I, for one, agree.

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