Transience, process and surface explored through print and painting
Amber Moir, Natasha Norman and Gabrielle Raaff have each visited Japan, while Georgina Berens spent some time in Finland. Quite clearly their experiences in these places have left an indelible mark on all of their practices. Amongst all four of these artists is insistence on the transitory over the permanent, and on process over result. And there is a shared concern with surface, even where imagery comes to the fore, in all of their work. Importantly, there is also something intangible, elusive, something that resists a definitive conclusion in all of the results.
Amber Moir, Along the Riverbed III, 2018. Pitch-rolled watercolour monotype on Calico, 54.5 x 29cm. Framed
Moir’s works have the quality of reflections, as if they are the way they are just in the instant we look at them, a specific and short-lived composite that will end with a shift of your head. This is in turn reflective of the process of their making, where watercolour is lifted from a surface by a loosely woven fabric: an operation fraught with instability. The fabric yields only a partly reliable and often insubstantial impression. And yet, the barest hint of an horizon, or a brief separation of figure from ground, is enough for us to guess the territory: landscape, the elements, weather, the seasons. A nacreous palette in places brings us to the shore, where liquid and solid meet, and colour is held in mirrored light. Elsewhere, earthier hues and repeated gestures suggest vegetable matter and growth. But everything shifts, nothing quite holds, and even the descriptive titles fail to moor these works.
Georgina Berens, Ship, 2018. Stone lithograph, 31 x 23cm. Edition of 13.
Georgina Berens’ works do stand out, in that they appear to rely more on image than the others’. But they’re less incompatible than you might think. Temporary, permeable structures and transient arrangements briefly hold their own against the elements and the passage of time. The pup tent or rough log fort, are in no way hermetically sealed: light and air pass freely through them, and indeed, such structures only hold a child’s attention for a limited period. Childhood itself is a transitory state. These structures afford no permanent refuge. The creation of a temporary interior in an unpeopled wilderness might be likened to the process of isolating a discrete experience from a ceaseless procession of elemental phenomena. The very process of the works’ making – stone lithography – is elemental too: water and grease work out their immiscibility in a limestone arena. A sheet of paper lifted from this becomes a thin stratum bearing evidence of only this particular skirmish.
Natasha Norman, Bathe, 2018. Mokuhanga, watercolour monotype on Japanese washi paper, 60 x 50cm. Unframed
The dominance of blues tells us at first glance that Norman’s works are concerned with the ocean. But as you look closely, your presumptions are revealed. As in Moir’s works, there are hints of figure and ground, but similarly, neither is consistently more substantial. Air is modelled like a solid, and liquid is more vaporous than viscous. And then mark-making brings you back to the surface, draws you away from imagery towards abstraction, material and process. Or, no sooner does the presence of gesture assure you of the artist’s intentions, than the possibility of representation draws you back to the ostensible subject of the work: an experience of water informed by a spectrum of senses. A watery passage leads through such states and elements, but never delivers you to a destination. Just as water ceaselessly shapeshifts through gas, solid and liquid states, so too do the artist’s gestures and intentions.
Gabrielle Raaff, Another Helping, 2018. Water-based oil on board.
Raaff’s works have the quality of images seen out the corner of the eye. It would be a mistake to suggest that they record something, but it would be inaccurate to suggest that they don’t. Raaff takes her cues here, she says, as much from time spent outdoors as from neighbourhood newspapers. You might be hard-pressed to retrieve this from the works; you’d probably be safer accepting these stimuli as jumping-off points for the risky challenges she sets herself, wherein she assembles novel arrangements of shape, colour and pictorial depth. Suggestions of edges, forms which drift into possibility, and pigment snagged between image and abstraction all recede and advance. None of this could happen without the translucent media Raaff uses. The washes and floods of pigment are barely contained by insubstantial edges which arrest the pigment with tempting contours, daring you to guess. But to look straight at them would cause them to vanish, and Raaff never allows this.
– Excerpt from Endless by Paul Edmunds
‘ENDLESS’ is on view at Salon91 from 23 May till 30 June. The exhibition will be a group show, showcasing work from Amber Moir, Gabrielle Raaff, Georgina Berens & Natasha Norman.