22 March – 22 April 2017, SPA_CE, Napier
Recent Elam Art School graduate Emma McIntyre has returned home with her Line Dancing series of eight paintings installed across the walls of SPA_CE gallery. SPA_CE, located upstairs in the old office area of a garage building, are excellent and intimate viewing rooms. The works vary in size – 500x400mm toward 1150x850mm – in keeping with recent trends of smaller size works.
Emma’s evident depth of resonance with colour is brought to the canvas through thin layers of paint, creating a palette saturating and stimulating immediately one’s visual field.
Bright and approaching, the abstract works contain absence and removal, and Emma’s handmade lines reveal a maturing and considered hand – simply, frank and fresh marking making. This thoughtful and reflective process has left no mark ambivalent, nor without function to each work. The palette is committed to steady, repetitive processes of layering and wiping thin lines or block movement.
Grid and square forms can be rigid, and even standardized in a modernist and ruled line tradition. Emma has instead pondered the essence of these fundamental forms. As a woman viewing, I cannot help but sense my own bias of enquiry and memory from where a grid patterning stems. For me, it was in the table cloths, the sewing, and the kilts of family life, and in some ways, this kind of memory is present in Emma’s work. For instance, ‘Dressed in Red’ conveys an emotive and even nostalgic suggestion of tartan pattern, woven cloth, and the fluid movement that fabric has. Pragmatically, this essence has been cleanly achieved by hand, as it would have been in traditionally woven cloth.
A great joy of this body of work though, is its absorbing palette. Applied without mess, these transpiring layers emphasis that any one colour is formed richly by many, such as with ‘Last Night’ where eerie layers conclude to a blue that lingers cumulatively, just as the title suggests, like the dark into dawn from last night. I concur that the titles of these works can give further emphasis.
Emma has assured us the nature of handmade line and working perfection by our own hands, in this case by hers, and how difficult it is to make what appears sparse, a true and valuable quality – the immeasurable mark, along with the convergence of human intention and coordination into an aesthetic. Worth a visit.