Audrey Grant’s latest exhibition of paintings is drawn from Des Meeres der Liebe Wellen* (The Waves of Sea and Love) a piece by the 19th Century Austrian dramatist Franz Grillparzer.
Audrey allows the oil paint to do the work of the narrative. She creates a strong visual vocabulary and builds churning layers of light and depth. In these six paintings, the sea and tides become a metaphor for fluid emotion and the unforgiving power of nature.
They are a striking example of the artist’s exploration of both the human and elemental.
There is a dynamic immediacy to the work, Audrey painted directly with her hands, she barely used brushes. The canvas provided a tight and fertile surface where blocks of colour and scratched out marks could create genuine expression.
“I wanted to feel the sea, so I used my hands to paint, and minimal brushwork, the paint smudged and smeared onto the canvas. I wanted to create great big ‘Romantic’ paintings about the sea.” Audrey Grant
“I wanted to feel the sea, so I used my hands to paint, and minimal brushwork,”
‘You Swam Here, From Abydus Distant Shore Part IV’ introduces us to our heroine, Hero. She is seated naked in high heals blatantly aching for her lover. Hero has the confidence and strength of a contemporary female. The neutral palette builds and forms foundations of glowing earthy-light, punctured by dark. The shadows of longing and passion weigh heavily on the surface.
In contrast, “My Nature Yields, and Yielding Finds Itself Part III’ depicts the slippery slope of tragic desire. Hero is completely naked, emotionally out of control. Her evocative form appears to be already part marine. She slinks seductively down slime green rocks towards her tragic demise, a glowing form of flesh and sorrow.
Audrey’s exploration into literature complements the execution of her latest painting. Excerpts from the text are torturously spelt out on some of the surfaces, almost an homage to self-harming. The story of Hero and Leander provides a fertile and unfettered scope for all forms of technical experimentation.
Contiguous, there is a series of eight nudes ‘Le Figure a Nu.’ Each of these canvases is packed with an energetic force, almost metaphysical and lyrical in nature.
There is also a series of ten small conceptual oils called ‘Woman.’ These are primitive and explicit in their physical frankness and unashamed vigour. Combine this with Audrey’s tumultuous handling of paint and they rapidly transform into tiny radical expressionist effigies.
There is a strong sense from these most recent works that Audrey Grant is continually tearing down boundaries and taboos. She’s defining her own aesthetic by critical reflection, experimentation and progressive development.
“In the Woman series, I mixed and thinned the paint in buckets, using linseed oil and solvent. I placed the canvases on the floor, upside down, with the heads towards me, to try and free myself from my usual easel or wall perspective. Paint was loaded onto brushes and laid or dripped onto the canvas from above, attempting to feel the sensation of the female body as I painted. It represents a development in my figure painting towards a more conceptual approach and an even more physical engagement with techniques and materials.” Audrey Grant
*The Greek Myth depicts the tragedy of the virgin Priestess Hero and her lover Leander (lion-man). Hero lived in a tower across the sea from Leander and each night guided by a bright light from Hero’s tower, Leander swam the Hellespont (known today as The Dardanelles, separating Greece from Turkey). One stormy night the guiding light was extinguished and Leander drowned in the treacherous sea. Heartbroken after seeing his lifeless body, the passionate Hero drowned herself.
An Edinburgh based painter, Audrey works in oils on canvas in an abstract figurative style. Recently the Glasgow Herald cited her as one of Scotland’s finest painters alongside Kate Downie, Barbara Rae and Joyce Cairns. She exhibits at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy in London. In 2017 she was invited as a Guest Lecturer for the MFA in Art and Humanities at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee.
Awards include the 2018 W Gordon Smith Award, the 2013 Anne Redpath Award, Visual Arts Scotland, the 2011 David Gilchrist Memorial Award at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and the 2011 Maverick Award at The Tom McGrath Trust.
Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen – The Waves of Sea and Love, a new cycle of 24 paintings by Audrey Grant 12th–28th September 2018 at Panter & Hall, 11-12 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5LU.
Photo and words by Lisa Azarmi ©Artlyst 2018