Photograph by Stu Allsopp with the object based installation for the show.
It’s been a while since my last painting exhibition – due to working in other media, and in my roles as project manager and mentor – and showing my new ¡Buenos Días Dictador! work is proving to be a truly fascinating experience.
Looking back at my previous blog posts as the series emerged it’s not surprising that the paintings are eliciting a range of reactions. This is why blogging can be so important and act as an aide memoire of actions and intentions. I can remind myself how unexpected these paintings were, and the range of emotions which accompanied their making. I’m especially drawn to the following paragraph.
“Wilful imagination – powerful unconscious compass! You take me where you need me to go but not where I planned for. Like forgetting to take a coat on holiday and arriving in a storm – I am unprepared. My work makes me naked but actually I love that.”
In my last blog post I wrote about the peaceful feeling instilled by the work for someone who is effectively living in the UK in political exile, as my family were.
There have since been many other visitors and reactions. I’ve had the joy of hanging out, chatting with guests, observing how people view the works (always interesting) and catching up with the comments book.
An artist friend had been worried ahead of visiting – paintings sometimes get flattened out in photographs and she really wasn’t sure she’d like them. Seeing them in reality, revealed the complex layering and textures. This was a relief – she could tell me honestly that she loved them! I found this so informing in terms of how I often present my work online where it may not be best served unless I can arrange for a photo shoot with a macro lens and professional lighting.
It’s wonderful when people find beauty in what you’ve made, and I’ve had many such comments – but I’ve been a little uneasy on this score too. It’s been nagging at me that this exhibition can work and be read on many levels and in many ways. I worried that the ever-present menace of Franco’s dictatorship could be missed – and I have to accept that it will be in some cases – as everything depends on the level of engagement with the material that the viewer is able or willing to give to it.
This work has been called brave, inducing sadness and a sense of isolation (good!) in one visitor who shares aspects of the Spanish legacy. The sunshine of Spain is missing, said another, the paintings are icy (yes – also good!). I’m delighted when people absorb the the peculiar and surreal atmosphere of my childhood – where the dictator’s presence was invisibly felt at every turn. I want it to be understood that I’m working with a taboo subject – but can see that this takes time to absorb and retain.
In each canvas there is a brooding cloud (or form) and I hoped to capture the uneasy balance of our lives; on the surface ‘normal’ but with an extraordinary dark undertow.
Yesterday brought two extremes – one a 1/10 review in the comment book! This appears to have been a prank!
This was outweighed by a charming and fully engaged viewer, who’s written a lovely review on his Instagram account – a new immersion course for English language students based on cultural tours of Oxford. I wish him huge success.
I’m now looking forward to my artist’s talk on the 9th February. If you’re in Oxford come along, but don’t forget to book first.