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Helen Tabor: Small Mysteries

13 August 2022 - 28 August 2022


'Small Mysteries'

This collection of paintings was made during a time of uncertainty, when memories, imagined narratives and the delights of immediate surroundings were made more acute and vivid than ever before. Themes of the sea, trees in autumn, winter and summer emerge alongside images of the garden and interiors inspired by Picasso and Bonnard. Paintings of winter also form a continuing thread, with ethereal figures appearing as if one with the pale background, while there is a similar search for mystery in several paintings inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear and a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The landscapes and seascapes are expressive in style with large brushstrokes and buttery paint, energetically applied, creating a feeling of expanse consistent with wide open spaces, wind in the trees or snow on grass. In the figure paintings, a freedom of style in the background contrasts with the more defined foreground creating both tension and balance. Often, tiny figures dance against a grand backdrop of waves or trees, or stand quietly in front of a large window of simple textured white.

Although varying in subject matter, the technique used in all the paintings is similar, beginning with the laying down of an idea in the form of a casual sketch which may capture the essence of the feeling I would like to achieve, perhaps the movement of figures or a facial expression. From there, a collaged Chinese paper base is laid on a board, usually followed by a raw sienna ground, whereby the paint is applied in a scrubbed, rigorous way so that brush marks often show through subsequent layers. Ideas are then developed loosely with a roller, palette knife or large brush, leaving a textured, broken surface on top of which the image evolves. Once the painting process begins, a flow is achieved, the work progressing of its own volition, changing as colours appear and the composition evolves. Sometimes paint is rubbed away to reveal the base layer as the painting grows and changes, constantly moving towards and away from definition.