Alice Browne Tests Our Limits




Limoncello Gallery presents a solo exhibition of Alice Browne, Certain Obstacles, comprising nine small paintings on canvas

‘Alice Browne’s paintings look to be made without much fuss’, reads the show’s introductory text. It doesn’t take long – a glance will suffice – to see what is meant. The work is painted in an intentional ‘slapdash’ manner, with simple forms obliquely referencing the architectural devices used in post-Renaissance painting (such as windows and arches) to create a space that recedes into the picture plane.

But, despite these allusions, Browne (in contrast to her sources) isolates any ‘spatial’ effects to the shallow surface level of the canvas, with illusionistic perspective of any kind being wholly absent. The sense of a layered space is created, mostly, with very thin, translucent washes of paint applied over thicker more opaque glazes, with fat scratchy brush-marks showing. The colours too are sometimes bold and solid, sometimes watery and insipid, and sometimes built up with layers of different hues. The artist seems to be engaged in a push and pull affair, creating depth and then seeking to flatten it.

According to the text, the aim of the works is to interrogate the viewer; to ‘assert’ the question: ‘What are you looking at?’ Fair enough. But for me, the artist presents us with a much more fundamental question – one that has preoccupied critics since the origins of Modern Art: how to tell the difference between intentional naïveté, and ‘perfunctory’, ‘bad’ painting? Browne’s is a bold proposition, bravely testing our tolerances by creating works that quiver between these two poles. Words Laurence Lumley © 2011 ArtLyst

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