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Margaret Elmsley drawings explore the tensions between light and darkness

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Margaret Elmsley, Flamenco

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

Margaret Emsley, “The Light Gets In”

Until July 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The works in Margaret Emsley new show “The Light Gets In” initially appear to be large scale photographs of slightly wilted plants. Closer inspection might suggest they are actually photographs of creations made of fabric or paper designed to look like withered  blooms.

They are in fact drawing made with charcoal and pencil, rendering the flowers in realistic detail. Some are in the traditional botanical  format of pencil line on white paper while others are more intriguingly on black paper. The works on the black paper make obvious the artist’s interest, suggested in the title of the show “The Light gets In” in the way in which light creates the volumes, shapes and subtlety of objects. It is light which is at the core of the way the artist depicts her objects.

She displays an exactitude of description replicating the photographic image, not only in the surface of the petals but also the areas where the photograph is out of fucus and these are rendered in an almost abstract manner.

She says of the process she uses that “the medium provides the ideal tool to explore the tension that is created between the opposing forces of light and darkness as well as the interior and external self.”

In many ways the works reference the Dutch still life artists of the seventeenth century where   a single flower could represent reproduction or decay, purity or promiscuity, love or hardship.

Many of the works titles indicate a similar metaphorical approach with works such as “Optimism” ($400) or “Serenity” ($400). Others relate to particular events or activities as with “Flamenco” ($4000) or Shooting Star” ($2200).

The artist has attempted to  capture something of the essence of change from  full bloom through to withered final state and she notes that she is observing not just the beauty of the flower but also but also the transformation  which “ through its brief lifespan reveals the inevitable, inescapable process of change”.

The petals of “Flamenco” spread out, reminiscent of the flaring skirts of a flamenco dancer, expressing the  exoticism and energy of the dancer, the deep folds also hinting at mystery and allure.

While “Flamenco” references the skirt of the dancer “Bailaora” ($2200) (which is a Spanish term for a flamenco dancer) with its upright “posed” flower suggest a proud, erect dancer.

Margaret Elmsley, Shooting Star

“Shooting Star” which looks more like an exotic marine creature depicts a bloom which has been affected by the elements as well as looking like an erupting sun, the tendrils of the flower like solar flares.

Several of the works which the artist has depicted past their prime also look as though they are diseased, they become momenta mori, symbolic reminder impermanence of human life and the inevitability of death.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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