Thursday, 15 March 2012

Mr Criticulous says...

Evonne Bain
Retrospective @ Tramway

In her earlier works, Evonne Bain was often preoccupied with the challenge of using a traditional medium – oil paint – in a time when complex cross platform creativity and modern technology dominated the art world. Yet her retrospective exhibition, housed in Tramway’s glorious main space, questions the easy assumptions about her aesthetic conservatism and reveals an artist more than willing to embrace her inner critic.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Bain shows a fascination with more spiritual matters, especially in the more recent pieces. Embracing a determinedly feminine set of ideas – the New Age ideal of the goddess, gentle representations of motherhood and fecundity – she moves beyond her early, dramatic canvases towards a more inclusive and nuanced series of studies. Her use of the canvas is almost loving, often breaking the washes of paint to let the raw fabric reveal its subtle beauty.

The first reviews of this retrospective suggested that Bain was experiencing a crisis of confidence: her selections seemed to deny the usual perceptions of her work, in an aggressive and provocative manner. Yet many of these critics would add that they felt here was an artist who was not only willing to challenge her audience, but herself. For at the heart of the exhibition, Bain leaves questions: her intentions may not be clear but, as she says in the gallery notes, this uncertainty reflects the profound uncertainty at the centre of existence.

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