Freya Payne: Slip at Flowers Gallery
The work of Freya Payne is hard to define. Born in Woking in 1968, she studied art initially at Falmouth College of Art, where in later years she has acted a visiting lecturer. Subsequently, she continued her studies at both Manchester Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art in London, where she took up the offer of a one-year printmaking fellowship. The extended period of studying art is mirrored in her own words about her work, referencing “the need to make something else” as her work is somehow “never quite what she [sic.] wanted it to be” – the echo of this drive to create and communicate is evident in this exhibition and truly raises more questions than it answers.
The exhibition is contained within a white-walled room, which draws out the monochrome harshness of the majority of the artist’s works. She uses intricate etching and stark contrast between white and dark to great effect, which the simple placement of her works draws out, pulling one into them with startling power. Payne’s use of intricate words is entwined within the pieces: in Looking for Exits I, it is visible only upon close inspection that the dress of the female figure is shaded not with crosshatch, but with frantic sentences written out hundreds of times, evoking the “obsessive, stomach-churning panic” she herself defines when discussing her work.
This desperation runs through the exhibition, focusing on the nature of identity, particularly female, and control – phallic symbols occur relentlessly and are always denied to the women she painstakingly draws. The exact detail that characterises her work evokes a frantic sense of fingers slipping loose on power, and leaves one with a feeling of unobtainability that remains even upon leaving the gallery.
This exhibition is powerful and thought-provoking, but evokes concepts that not all may be comfortable with; the light relief offered by the abstract, vibrantly coloured pieces curled around the far corner of the room is welcome, and lifts the exhibition away from potential macabre. Payne’s work is skilled and extremely distinctive, and leaves an imprint even when in the hustle of the outside world, drawing questions on who we are and why we are here. With only confusion and turmoil etched upon her canvases, one is left feeling as though, as Payne herself put it, “there is something more to be said”.
Photos: Jay Shaw-Baker
Freya Payne: Slip is at Flowers Gallery until 12th October 2013. For further information visit Freda Payne’s website here.