When Steffie Richards showed work a few years back the means behind it seemed pretty neat if somewhat laborious for its creator – series of tonal variations that made up the line, a repeated line that accrued form through its persistency. It made for striking and original paintings but it was hard to see where the process might move onto for future shows. But now we know. Her new body of work – As Yet Untitled – currently on view at Harrington Mill Studios pushes the envelope on the technique through abstracted imagery (mainly related to observations of water and wave movements at various coastal locations) and by using the accretion of canvases to form a larger collective pieces. Supported by an Arts Council award it makes for an interesting and accomplished show that takes her painting to another level.
Take the diptych Ebb & Flow – Catch The Undertow. Here the repetitive marks trip across the two surfaces with a delineation between the rolling surf and the sand line below where the technique represents the particular characteristic of the wet shoreline to great effect. The artist’s trademark use of a distinctive linen support is also used to best effect in these paintings giving a colour field that both acts as a natural as well as a formal foil to the marks that sit on it. interestingly this work is one in progress as the artist informs us that it will in the final iteration become a triptych and though it works effectively at present it is easy, once one has been told, to imagine this.
In Is The Sea Not Always Blue? Richards uses both the multiple canvases and the individual colour ways for the purpose of answering her own question alongside an evocation of the rhythms of the ocean as it begins breaking onto the beach. As the row of canvases rise and fall there is again a formal surety in the making of a painting as well as a well observed understanding of how colour combinations are both individually distinctive but coalesce into a broiling, churning whole.
Amongst the other canvases Into The Deep is one of two that suggests a further development into figuration by introducing the body juxtaposed with the waters around them. Its another intriguing direction in which the artist, one suspects, will find more valuable ways of making fresh and original pieces.
I’ve been mulling over the issue of representations of painting in the digital realm a good deal recently. Of course these have been to the fore for years now – the flat glossy screen through which much of our viewing of current painting is conducted gives a lie to the experience of standing up close and personal to the actual physical objects. None more so than here where the materials and processes are deployed to the singular effect of recasting and recreating lived observation and understanding of what has been observed. These processes seek to recombine both the artist’s direct experience of being there with our experience of being here…that is in front of the actual work. This makes it doubly worthwhile to view these works in situ and the viewer who does so will be amply rewarded. The show runs to 3rd June.