Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Deborah Poynton

I have just seen Deborah Poynton's exhibition at the Michael Stevenson Gallery.

Deborah says of her exhibition entitled "Arcadia" '
Arcadia is a pastoral idyll, a place where humans lived in peace with nature, impossible to re-enter. It is perhaps because it is a landscape of innocence that the only two figures included in the 11 canvases are children. In this landscape the folly creates the illusion of a threshold, but it is just a framing device to convey the fundamental conundrum of the Garden of Eden. For man, to behold the world is to reduce or even destroy it, perhaps because it is otherwise too frightening, too empty of significance, and simultaneously too full of detail to comprehend. The phrase 'Et in Arcadia ego' resonates in this landscape because one is always aware that annihilation is present even in Arcadia. Everywhere it is as if something is on the tip of your tongue. You may sit for a long time and still not know what it is. In the meantime, there is consolation in beauty.

If you see one exhibition this year, see this one- it is awe-inspiring. Deborah's works are mammoth- at least 4 metres tall by 3 metres. There is a darkness about them, an almost sinister feeling. Nevertheless she creates an atmosphere, palpable with meaning, slightly threatening. Her artistic tecbnique is flawless; every leaf on every fern is delicately and exquisitely rendered. Her style is super- real almost.
To call it "realism" would be a disservice. Not quite "surreal" either, yet there is an echo of them in her paintings. Her work cannot be boxed into any of the known so-called "genres". It is simply beyond them all, outstanding in its uniqueness and "otherness". I urge you to see this.

In the adjoining gallery are photographs by Billy Monk. Putting these two artists together was an inspired choice. Deborah's work with its monumental, almost Biblical references in company with the sleaze and underbelly of Cape Town nightclubs of the sixties. I felt slightly schizoid when I came out of there after about an hour and felt strongly in the need of a strong coffee.
It is seldom that an exhibition has affected me like this one has. Five days later, I am still haunted by those images. And all too aware of my limitations and my lowly place in the artistic echelons! Knowing that I will never be more than a "hobby" artist, no matter how many hours I spend trying ot improve, no matter how much I aspire to create, I shall never, in my lifetime, be able to produce works of the genius of Deborah Poynton.

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