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Belinda Griffiths portraits emerge from chaos

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Belinda Griffiths, Gesture IV

Belinda Griffiths, Exhale

Föenander Galleries, Mt Eden

Until April 20

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Belinda Griffiths latest exhibition “Exhale” at Föenander Galleries is largely of figures or portraits, employing gestural marks which derive from both the rigorous marks of the calligrapher as well as the emotional and spontaneous gestures of artists such as Max Gimblett.

We are rarely aware of the action of exhaling but when we focus on the way we breathe we become conscious of our environment and our connection with it in a much intimate way, aware of the physicality of the activity. So, with these works she  touches on the nuances of the person, and their awareness of their environment – physically, cerebrally and spiritually.

The gesture in art has been a way for artists and performers to embellish or emphasise their intentions. Actors making grand flourishes, composers with extravagant chords,  musicians with ostentatious ornamentation while visual artists employ colour, contrast and brush strokes to catch the eye.

The gestures of Griffiths range from the light touch  to the dramatic providing a sense of the individual surrounded by or emerging from unrest and  disorder, evoking Milton’s lines from “Paradise Lost”

“ In the Beginning how the Heav’ns and Earth
Rose out of Chaos

With many of her faces the individual is in a meditative pose lost in their own thoughts or reveries but around them swirl lines which emanate from the body or from an outside presence .

The gestural mark of the brush in “Gesture III” ($3000)  becomes the swell of sinews while in “Exhale” ($6800)  these marks may be the outline of exhaled breath and equally the swirling thoughts of the individual.

In Gesture IV” ($3000) the paint itself seems to lift of the surface creating a three-dimensional effect and in “Drift” ($2500) the gesture becomes the dramatic hair style of the figure. With “Intertwined” ($6800) the figure is almost obliterated by the swelling brushstrokes.

A couple of the works don’t relate to the figure and more to the chaos around them with the more abstract “Unwind” ($2200) and “Windswept” ($2200) describing a rugged  landscape with ragged clouds.

There is also a small suite of works in which  figures are  set in landscapes. In “Inhale #6” ($700) a solitary figure seems to confront a swirling  cloud  while in “Inhale #3” ($700) the figure is either emerging or disappearing into a  churning mist.

The small  works in the show are all monotypes but she has also used the technique on some of the larger works and one work “Untethered” has been applied directly to the wall of the gallery.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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