Patrick Heide Contemporary Art is pleased to present an exhibition with recent works by Jyll Bradley and Sophie Bouvier Ausländer.
The exhibition brings together two women artists at the height of their game. While embedded in their individual oeuvres, artists present new bodies of works that form a fresh development in their practice mostly emerging from their research during the pandemic period.
Jyll Bradley’s Fingers is a new family of works on paper that juxtapose feelings of uncertainty with a desire for direction. These drawings continue Bradley’s fascination with the process, structure and metaphor associated with growing hops and relate to her recent acclaimed sculpture The Hop, currently on show at the Hayward Gallery. Fingers draw their title and form from elements of the vernacular Kentish oasthouses which were part of Bradley’s childhood landscape. A ‘finger’ is the name given to the pointed mechanism at the top of an oasthouse that catches and funnels the wind-down, helping dry the hops below. Traditionally fingers have distinctive motifs – such as arrows and circles – which are specific to place. Sailing high above the countryside and subject to changing wind, Bradley has long seen fingers as strange signposts to both direction and flux.
For these new drawings, Bradley has researched historic finger motifs and rendered them - or fractals of them - as computer-generated graphic designs. She then prepares the grounds for each work. As with other recent drawings, she uses coloured carbon paper, a material connecting her with her late father who used it when writing poetry. She folds the paper many times, unfolds it and then strips back areas of colour with tape to create layers of line, transparency and opacity. Bands of silver and coloured spray paint are then introduced. Finally, the ‘finger’ designs are photocopied onto these rich grounds. As a result, Fingers have a strong hand-made quality with the boldness of colour and echo of dynamic forward-looking 1960s design, yet a rich fragility of texture, surface mark and slippage. In keeping with their pragmatic origin Fingers are mounted in simple ashtray frames designed by the artist, unglazed to create immediacy between viewer and artwork.
The development of Fingers took place through the challenges of early Brexit and lockdown, times of personal and global uncertainty of direction. Made in the solitude of Bradley’s studio these intimate drawings offer special insight into her artistic process.
With thanks to Veronique Park and Sarah Elson of Launch Pad LaB Artists’ Residency Programme where original ideas for this suite of drawings evolved. Thanks to Charlotte Hoyes for assistance with the design work.
Abandoning the map and its territory from her earlier series Sophie Bouvier Ausländer turned towards media information and started to use the idiosyncratic pink paper of the Financial Times for a new series created since the beginning of Covid-19. The Swiss artist obliterates news citing the current state of our planet by drowning it in colour, to then dig into the paper and exhume parts of its original make-up. The surface area is torn, re-collaged and harmed in the process, the formal composition of a printed newspaper page transforms into an ephemeral relief. Additionally to the excavation process, Bouvier Ausländer employs an expressive use of colour and gestures to rearrange and recharge the original content, suggesting a new world and vision.
Working between London and Lausanne, revisiting the studios after lengthy lockdown breaks, allowed for a critical examination of what Bouvier Ausländer had done at a given time and a given place. The new body of paintings has been repeatedly reworked, finished and stored. Regularly revisiting the works, new layers of colour, change of orientation, fresh combinations and collaging have completely transformed the nature of what had looked complete. Bouvier Ausländer’s own work seemed foreign, the urge to reappropriate it was a familiar feeling.
“I rarely hang an old piece and leave it as it is. To rest in that untouched state, it must belong to someone else. Pierre Bonnard was more radical. Paintings were never finished in his view, and he retouched them constantly within collector’s homes and even in museums. ‘Bonnardiser’ became at his time a word to describe a constant urge to alter or complete one’s own artwork. To continue working on a painting is a way to affirm ownership, an illusory search for perfection, a self-identification with the transformative process of life.”
The Financial Times Diaries and Radar series are made on newsprints and maps. These mediums depict a world in transformation with underlying strata that Bouvier Ausländer tries to dig out and reveal through her practice. The new works are accumulations of the original printed papers, of their first stage as paintings and of their last version signed and exhibited.
The material’s fragility limits the reworking. If the waxed paper stands for the artist’s own skin as much as for the world’s, that membrane becomes torn and worn. The weight and its actions damage the supporting structure, the thickness of the layering crumbles, and voids increase. When fragments of the original text emerge from the excavation process as a promising sight of a final puff, then the artist stops working.
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