BRITISH artist Frances Aviva Blane’s new solo exhibition Broken Heads Broken Paint opens in London this week. Unsurprisingly Blane is showing figurative and abstract paintings together as she did in her show Two Faces at the German Embassy, London last year and again in Human also at the German Embassy.
However, in this gallery space, away from embassy grandeur, the juxtaposition of abstract and figurative work cuts a more menacing aspect. The mute gaze of Melt, dripping liquid paint down oversized features is at odds with the dry pink and black painterly striations of Summer. Despite bubble gum coloured pink paint there is nothing summery or joyful about the thick black jagged marks stabbing the surface.
Blane’s bleak view continues with Accident, a yellow and black painting in which similar thick black paint is drawn across the linen and allowed to fall and sully a golden sunshine background. Or is it a background? The push/pull effect has one guessing. These are delinquent paintings and their large size (over 198 cm square) have an imposing and unsettling presence.
The smaller monochromatic pieces with titles including Fail and Heart are also not optimistic. They bring to mind beginnings and ends with some failure of nerve in between. It’s as if Blane has just walked away from the painting without realising the intention of the work, beautiful paint and sensitive calligraphic marks, Blane’s trademark, allow these works a raw beauty also apparent in the larger scale Box.
Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue with a foreword by Tess Jaray RA and an essay by the esteemed biographer Diana Souhami. Blane says “Tess was my tutor at the Slade and we’ve stayed in touch. I often visit her studio and vice versa. It’s a relationship of great importance to me. Whatever Tess says about my work is valuable. She’s known my work since 1991 and is always interested. There is not much Tess doesn’t know about paint and painting. She is also down to earth and unfailingly honest.”
In contrast to Jaray’s art world expertise and knowledge of fine art is a studio interview between Souhami and Frances .
“It was fascinating talking to an art-world outsider’ says Blane. “One goes back to basics, like explaining how not to hang onto the good bits in a painting and taking risks. But it was at the end of our talk when I asked Diana which pictures she liked that I realised I didn’t like all of them, although I found them interesting and certainly admired them. That surprised me as I had created them and worked hard. Presumably I had liked them at some point as my involvement was total. Or did I? And does it matter ? I’m still wondering.”
by Jane Weston
Blane’s next exhibition Dark is at De Queeste Art Gallery in Belgium in November 2018
Broken Heads Broken Paint by Frances Aviva Blane with foreword Tess Jaray RA and essay by Diana Souhami is published by Starmount. Available on Amazon