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Website: Chestnuts Design

Bending Space |  Julia Farrer, Sharon Hall, Francesca Simon

6th April - 6th May 2023.   Eagle Gallery EMH Arts

A review by Natalie Ryde

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

Bending Space is clever name for an exhibition comprised entirely of straight painted edges and abstract geometry. The stretch of the canvas weave and the folded edges are made apparent by the very rigidity of the painting. The bend is also suggested through the offset geometry and the skewing of angles, and the way light enters the paintings through the materiality of the canvas, linen and wooden surfaces.

I'm taken with Francesca Simon's paintings on linen. These very precise lines make the painted shapes feel like collage, like objects placed on the linen as if they could be picked up and rearranged at a whim, giving the work a playfulness. I read about the different associations behind her work; amazing that arrangements of geometric shapes can have so many echoes in the chaotic real world. They are offset, seemingly interchangeable, the linen is soft dusky light; we're at home. I spoke to Francesca at the private view.  She tells me these works developed during lockdown, and we share the experience of colour seeping in, at that time when our sensory experiences were limited to a certain confined space.

Julia Farrer, Still Light (Life) II (2022), acrylic on panel 47 x 58cm.

Francesca Simon, Check B (2022). acrylic on linen, 65 x 54cm

Sharon Hall, Crux (2023), oil on cotton duck,35.5 x 41cm

On the opposite wall Julia Farrer shows paintings on wooden board, cut as if around an outline; one painting has a window pierced out within the piece.  They look like knots of interlocking geometric pens, like a paper chain of folded rectangles in a pile.  I wonder if she makes models/sculpture and draws from them to formulate arrangements. They seem to be about layers of transparency and opacity in 3D space but very much imprisoned on the 2D plane. They  make one consider the relationships between those different dimensions, almost as folded space rather than bended. The pastel grey and peach colours painted on cut-out wood sit somewhere between sculpture and painting and have a visual resonance with architecture and design.

Opposite the gallery windows, Sharon Hall’s minimal frame compositions seem to wrap over the edges of the canvas.  I like the transparent colour trapped within the oblique solid, flat painted blocks that surround them, the weave of the cotton duck canvas apparent within this window of light. You really see the fold of the canvas; it almost bothers me, but there's a sense of yielding to the real world. The reveal of underlying paint on the edges seems to accept the imperfect reality that the geometry is trying to reconcile. There's something lighter and more carefree here, bound in a wonky frame. The exaggerated angles suggest a structure liable to skew, and make one question whether that confine is really as taut as it is presented.

Together these works seem to reflect the experience of repeated action, with endless permutations within the bounds of formal painting practice.  They feel as if they accept the warp of influence from a life lived both inside and outside the studio. These are artists who have an advanced visual language; everything they paint they have painted before, but differently every time. As in life, repetition interspersed with revelation and irregularities.