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Henrietta Dubrey and Marion Taylor

Rainyday Gallery 7th June - 2nd July 2008



It's hard to look at the paintings by Henrietta Dubrey in Rainyday and not think of the abstract painters that were active in Penwith in the 50's and 60's: particularly Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Alan Davie and Bryan Wynter. What she shares with these artists, particularly the latter two, and with artists like Mark Tobey and middle period Jackson Pollock is an interest in calligraphy: in the process of mark making as a form of writing in space.

In art history terms, the gestural mark-making of the American Expressionists, and to an extent their Cornish cousins, was inspired by Surrealism and by Freudian ideas of the psyche. Automatic writing, like dreams and slips of the tongue, was supposed to provide a link to the artist's unconscious, and therefore offer the promise of deep mystical content.



We now live in a more cynical age, however, and the discourse around abstract art cannot reliably draw strength from these notions, without at least straining credibility. Instead Dubrey, in common with other abstract artists in Cornwall, is left with a language of mark-making that has been handed down to her by a previous generation, and which has been largely drained of meaning, other than as an art-historical reference point. This, however, is precisely what Dubrey has chosen to embrace.

Doing so, she is able to combine dynamism and spontaneity in the paintings, to an extent that they energise the space around them. This is best exemplified in the wild abandon of a work like 'Journey' (detail below). However she also expresses a range of other emotions: a beatific calmness is evident, for example, in the warm grey ground and tentative marks of an almost featureless work like 'Return'.



Part of the interest in calligraphy in the fifties reflected an emergent awareness of Zen Buddhism, and, fittingly there is an Eastern influence at play in Marion Taylor's recent paintings in the space at the back of the main gallery. The works have been inspired by Ukiyo-e, the art of Japanese woodcuts dating back to the 17th Century, and take their name, 'The Floating World', from it.

Whereas the action in Dubrey's paintings is very much on the surface of the canvas, Taylor's paintings present an ambiguous sense of depth, with elements that hint at landscape that could be Cornish (but probably are n't) submerged within.  The veils of colour also include areas of reflective gold ground, that push out assertively to the front of the image.



Works by Anthony Frost, Alice Mumford, Shirley Foote, Fiona Gray, David Shanahan, Sarah Poland, Clive Williams, Carole McDowall, Phil Whiting, Simon Pooley, Emma Jeffryes, Herbert Marshall, Andrew Lanyon, Kathy Todd, Carrie Taylor, Matthew Lanyon, Tom Winters, Lewis Mitchell, Evelyn Bishop, Robert Jones, Chris Hankey, Nick Williams, Bob Bourne, Janine Wing, Audrey Evans, Alice Mumford and WJ Sirrett were also on view.

RW 18/6/08