Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sourcey Paintings: Artist Statement. Jenny Pomeroy Exhibits at FADA Gallery

M Tech Fine Art: Jenny Pomeroy. 

Fairest of Them All
Oil on canvas
180 x 127 cm.
Jenny Pomeroy is an expressive portrait painter who employs photographic source material as the starting point in her painting process. She explores the translations and manifestations of trace and index of mark on the painting’s surface and the transcendence of the painting from its original photographic source image in her body of portrait paintings.
Artist’s statement
There is a fine line between resemblance and abstraction in my portrait paintings. While it is my intention to capture a certain degree of likeness in my portraits, I do not attempt to paint realistic or naturalistic portraits, but, rather, spontaneous studies that capture a phenomenological ‘something’ about my subjects. 
My expressive layers of paint on the canvas consequently become the substitutes for the external layers of skin on my subjects. These painterly ‘skins’ reveal something about a subject’s essence and being, unlike the anatomical, dermal layers that cover the body, and which do not reveal anything about the individual’s personality. 

Painterliness is a tool or vehicle in my painting process of revealing and concealing relational aesthetics and identity as an attempt to balance the slippery area between outward appearance and inner personality. 
David Paton. Supervisor, Visual Arts.
There are some paintings in my oeuvre where the portrait does not act as a vehicle for representation in terms of likeness at all, and the subjects are unrecognisable in terms of iconic resemblance, but my perception of their personhood is revealed through the use of colour or mark, and shapes or forms serve as inspiration for free exploration of materiality and substance on the canvas. Painting for me is a way of thinking: I think through painting as an active way of problem solving and doing.
Head of Visual Arts,
Vedant pages
through the catalogue.
I only work from source images (which I have either taken myself or have downloaded from social media sites) of people that I know intimately – family members, and close friends. Thus the physical presence of the subject in my portraits, which requires a personal relationship with my subjects, is essential, and subjectivity and perception of both the exterior and the interior of my subjects are key in my portraits. 

My paintings are primarily concerned with materiality, colour, and mark, and, as a result, the way in which I paint my subjects is just as important as the subjects themselves. In this light, my practice goes beyond trying to capture the likeness of a subject, and often moves towards encapsulating what I consider to be the essence, or being, of a character. 
I physically translate a glimpse of certain perceived aspects of my subject’s corporeal and essential personhood from my personal point of view. The essence of my subjects is shown through material and substance, and through revealing and hiding true relational elements.
The exhibition runs until
31 October 2014.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jenny Pomeroy: Sourcey Paintings. Exhibition Opening Address by David Paton.

Jenny Pomeroy, Red Pill, Blue Pill, 2014. 

Acrylic and oil on canvas, 153 x 101 cm.

There is so much that can be said about this exhibition and the larger project behind it: I could for instance focus on the underpinning thematics of Jenny’s study:
Locating what she calls “the auratic” in certain paintings (that is, when they exhibit a presence or aura), and especially in the work of Marlene Dumas which Jenny was able to experience intimately in both Cape Town and Amsterdam.

Defining the auratic in terms of a liminal space between an artwork’s proximity (what Jenny terms “being-thereness”) and on the other hand, a distance or unattainability, (which Walter Benjamin identifies as the conditions for an artwork’s auratic quality). 
Today, ironically, such distance usually means that an artwork is often ubiquitously available to us as a set of scaled-down images in books and on the web - where they are unreliable, pixelated and often completely decontextualized, and thus without aura.

Another thematic with which Jenny grapples is in identifying the aura as a presence, especially in terms of what she calls a ‘certain something’ about the internal personhood of her model. The abiding attraction of the portrait and its photographic source – a source which, surprisingly, frees her from likeness, mimicry and, of course, flattery (this is especially interesting in that her sources are all family and friends)

I could focus on the tensions which lie at the heart of the location of auratic moments i.e. when the iconicity of the photographic source has been transgressed and liberated, and where transcending the source material occurs in interesting yet difficult-to-define ways. 

In her dissertation, Jenny has forged a compelling and exhaustive argument for the auratic in particular portrait paintings derived from photographic sources, an argument requiring no less exhaustive investigation in the making of these paintings: these phenomenological, haptic, embodied and dare-I-say auratic portraits in which material embodiment, indexical traces of their making and the meatiness of painting are evident in her quest to transcend mere likeness. 

She unhinges the false iconic power which the photograph claims in respect of resemblance and points our attention toward that liminal moment where physical likeness collapses and folds into a representation of the personhood of her sitter as only Jenny might know them.

This embodiment of what the American figural painter Willem de Kooning calls “slipping and glimpsing” results in a set of potently disconcerting - and in places, difficult and seemingly ugly - surfaces which threaten not to hold and which clearly deny likeness (the very convention upon which portrait painting builds is foundation). But for Jenny, any painting of someone else is also a palpable and indexical sign of her own existence, her “having-been hereness”, evidencing a thinking mind which directs the often unruly liquidity and materiality of her processes. In some fundamental way, these paintings then, are all, also, self-portraits. 

Jenny Pomeroy, Disembodied Selfie

2014. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 180 x 127 cm.
Any visit to Jenny’s studio would evince a space of ordered frenzy, the large canvasses moving between easel and floor where there is no longer a conventional top or bottom, and around which Jenny prowls, pours, tilts, wipes off, reworks and circles about some more. 
In this sometimes frenzied process of painting, a degree of control - along with preciousness and ego - disappear; the process of slipping and glimpsing that “certain something” about the personhood she is trying to paint, sometimes seems as elusive as the successful herding of cats. But it is visceral and exciting ending only when liquidity has settled, a film forms on the surface and calm is restored so that the painter can, at last, see what she has painted, and in this aspect alone, she is the bravest of painters.

Jenny Pomeroy. Mother, Brother, Me, 2013. 

Acrylic and oil on canvas, 121 x 153 cm each (triptych).

Jenny does not want a polite portrait which would - inevitably - only point back to the photograph and the model: such an act would only deny and undermined the very act of painting in the first place. 

Instead, Jenny’s portraits point us in another direction: towards the difficulty of liberating painting from mimicry, towards an act of material and visual ‘archaeology’; slipping towards and glimpsing that elusive relational aesthetic which underpins the physical and emotional relationships we share with others, especially those we know well and love.  
In this exhibition, the index of materiality, mark and process is a brave and honest act, a revelation of selfhood, material personhood and “having-been thereness” (as much as it embodies blood rising in the veins, a hair-standing-up-on-end moment, the flush of excitement, a chill up the spine, the bodily recognition of the tenor of a voice).

And so I appeal to each of us here tonight, to read the exhibition as it is built. Below, self-reflexive works explore the very foundations of her study, taking the idea of the portrait (Jenny’s own in places) in multiple directions to see where these paths may lead. 

In other works downstairs, familiar faces provide an opportunity to understand the gravity of the what, how and why of the study she has undertaken and where video animations help unlock processes of transgression and transcendence between starting and ending points (something absent when only viewing the final congealed product) and that shifting morphology which exists between photographic source and final painting. These animations have proven as valuable a resource for Jenny as they are entertaining and informative for the viewer.

Jenny, up here in the white cube (FADA Gallery) in which your major work can breathe and provoke, we are reminded of another protean idea expressed by de Kooning, that “... flesh was the reason why oil paint was invented”; of Maurice ‎Merleau-Ponty’s suggestion that “expressive painting is better equipped to reveal personhood than is photography” and finally, Marlene Dumas’ statement that “Paintings exist as the traces of their makers and by the grace of these traces.
David Paton
Supervisor of the Masters Candidate.

Senior Lecturer
Department of Visual Arts
Univesity of Johannesburg

Artist studio shot.