A review of Jessica Crothall's exhibition
Letham Gallery, Auckland
5 – 15 September 2008
In September, tucked away in a back gallery at the Letham Gallery, Jessica Crothall showed a selection of new paintings. They referenced the forms of southern mountains, land and the figure.
But the real subject of the work was light, colour and the sublime. Crothall’s paintings stir up deep emotions and feelings of wonder and joy. She creates viewpoints within her images that direct the viewer toward a higher, aspirational place both physically and spiritually.
Her reductive painting technique of scraping off previous paint layers captures the immediacy of the mark, but also exposes luminous, transparent, overlapping layers of colour. The sense of energy and the vitality of the marks allow the paintings to sit well within the abstract expressionist tradition.
They also show links with Judy Millar’s large-scale hand paintings. Millar describes the "joy and charm" of painting in terms of space: "... the illusion and the virtual space it sets up ... I want a completely dismantled kind of shimmering hovering one."
Crothall’s work shares this shimmering, hovering quality; the paint does not blend or mix but hovers in veils within the surface of the painting.
The strongest works for me were the 'Mountain Pass' series and 'Towards the Summit'. They seemed more resolved and moved the show to another level. I would, however, have liked to see these works on a larger scale. The longer I stayed with Crothall’s paintings the greater the sense of journey they evoked for me. I became a walker on the icy mountain path, looking up to the peak. Looking forward to the Summit.
Reviewed and written by Esther Hansen
Judy Millar quoted from Justin Paton’s "Judy Millar: Eleven Approaches"
From Is she, as you to me (catalogue), Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 2003.
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