Freya Payne brings us back to the past, to a time when the household was considered the heart of life, with family members gathered around the fireplace and the smell of burning wood rising up through the chimney evaporating into the cold landscape of the countryside village.
The exhibition entitled Returning at Flowers gallery, is comprised of three connected series of paintings, objects, and monoprints which share the same organic feel and earthy tones. Displayed in an atypical manner, the paintings of varying scales are scattered across the walls, one on top of another without spacing, one large canvas adjacent to one smaller, while others perfectly organized, aligned horizontally in threes or fours in a square. This type of composition doesn’t reveal more about the content of the paintings but they allow a certain dynamic and intimate relationship between the artist and the viewer.
The depiction of portraits and body parts evoke the passage of time. Birth, adolescence, adulthood, old age and death, each stressed by the swift and hyperrealist brushstrokes. The characters, who I imagine are real, bathe in a sea of reds, browns, and fleshy hues. They are depicted with simplicity and evoke nostalgia, remembrance of loved ones or a fond memory which forces a smile upon one’s face.
If family spirit prevails strongly within the gallery limits, physical heritage is also present, inhabited by the objects affixed on the walls. Often found on mantelpieces, personal to each household, they appear to symbolize the laughter, quarrels, cries, rejoicement and hardship shared by a family generation after generation. Here, Payne has collected and assembled pieces of wood, bone and stone to produce trinkets which she oddly named in correlation with the act of breathing and living.
A series of portraits in wooden frames are displayed next to abstract shapes. They appear as if they were hand drawn, the shadows lending texture to the faces made of black or sepia hues. I find it complex to associate this series with the previously mentioned.
The geometric colourful forms brake the connection to the past suggested by Payne throughout the former series. These gouache landscapes give the impression of being more contemporary and therefore place the viewers in a new setting, almost implying that the depicted strangers have done something heroic for whom we must be forever grateful to.
Whether or not I have a connection with my past, one of family or the soldiers who died defending my country, I have the feeling that exploring Payne’s art works is a forced journey. Mentioning family and the home is a complex matter which inevitably triggers personal stories and perhaps unwanted recollections. One might argue, there is always the option of resisting and contemplating from the outside. In my case, that was too late a recourse.
Returning: Freya Payne at Flowers (19 July to 2 September 2017)