Fenderesky Gallery (Belfast, August 2 – September 7, 2018) has displayed paintings from 41 artists, the larger ones on Gallery Ground Floor, the small ones upstairs on two walls facing each other.
Good eye and sense of adventure allowed the diagonals to stutter, turn back on themselves, make room for other lines of vision or just be confident to keep their initial direction. Visual melody effortlessly issues, insisting that each painting submits its difference to connect to the others. I see it as an installation, as a chorus of different voices harmonizing with the others. Polyphony – mute and visible.
Compare the confidence of Dan Shipsides application of golden section
with Helen G Blake patiently breathing spirit into a pattern and repeat and willful red destroyers of the sameness. That hers is twice the size of the enigmatic three tones above seems to undermine the popular understanding of scale as determining aesthetic value. Both deliciously private, to the point and without fanfare.
The majority of paintings upstairs are the size of a postcard or a little less or little more. They all are full blooded compositions, confident not to ask for more support than a holding palm.
Barbara Freeman feeds the hues with energy sufficient for a larger size of canvas. Yet – these are not miniatures.
A miniature refuses such promiscuity, insisting on the chosen small scale.
Anja Markiewicz makes contemporary miniatures, which, like butterflies or flowers, are faithful to the determined size. I noted few of the small paintings on either wall heading in that direction too but stopping just there.
It appears to me that the eye zooms on the size of the “brushstroke” to become convinced that the size is right. The onscreen reproduction removes that certainty.
The intense open-ended scale allows intoxication by playful promiscuity. In the sense and to what extent mute poetry belonged to the audience, numerous of these small paintings are sedulous.
And immersive. Evocative like medieval portable small paintings can be.
The promiscuity of scale in abstract paintings allows access to enjoyable insecurity – it is not threatening. Does it work differently in narrative, figurative mode? Possibly – the scale is internally bound to the size of the brushstroke in its descriptive mode. If the canvas were bigger – the marks would need to be bigger – like in a fresco. I recall that Goya preferred to use a sponge instead of a brush while working on the fresco at San Antonio de la Florida.
Whereas abstraction sits comfortably with brush strokes or stains of any size.
Whereas – when Sharon Kelly combines stains with writing the image gets locked in the small size.
It is representational as well as autonomous.
In the space of several yards, the distance between Fenderesky and Engine Room galleries, there were around 130 paintings on show. Some harvest! Some trust in the mute poetry.