Tuesday, 1 March 2016



Thicket, II , 170 x 170 cm, Patricia Cain

A thicket is an unforgiving cluster of trees or bushes which are crunchy and crisp, spiky and cruel. It keeps people out, or, worse still, pens them in. Small animals get trapped inside. One of my favourite books as a child was Guttergrin the Gargoyle where, in a dream sequence, the heroine gets impaled in a thicket and everyone feels satisfyingly sorry for her.

A thicket is also dark and impenetrable.  But in this beautiful work we have light and colour too; the magical poise of a dance; a mask; the street plan of a fantasy city - art which is scratchy but still; empty yet bursting with energy, all poised between abstraction and representation.

Patricia Cain was awarded the 2016 Daler Rowney Prize for her work. The prize is in the gift of the Pastel Society, which was founded in 1898. Its early members and exhibitors  include Brangwyn, Degas, Rodin, Rothenstein, Whistler and G.F.Watts. The Mall Galleries are currently hosting the Society's Annual Exhibition featuring works in pastel, pencil, chalk and charcoal. Abstract and experimental art is shown alongside traditional representation.

In 2012 Patricia  Cain organised and curated a symposium called Construction: Knowing through Making  which was part of an exhibition Built at the Mall Galleries as part of the London Festival of Architecture. One of the themes was that the construction process is fundamental to the artistic process - in other words, artists and architects 'come to know' through making things. Mindsets are shaped and altered, often in collaborative processes, in ways that it’s not possible to describe linguistically.

The artist says of her work:
I am involved with the idea that you can paint or draw something terribly complex, and through making it, it becomes nothing. I often seek this absence though a process that involves intense scrutiny. Invariably, my work is on the cusp of both abstract and figuration – a place where observation turns inwards. For me, energy is fundamental: the dominant energy resides in empty space. In the balancing up between abstraction and figuration, it is the absence or negative space that activates the artwork, yet also makes it unstable...the artist operates as a self-referencing system... where thinking occurs through the body and processes are in effect, self-enactive.

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