Joanna Kirk at Blain Southern
An exhibition of new large-scale works in pastel by London-based artist Joanna Kirk is the latest show that Soho’s Blain Southern has on offer. So, what’s so different about it? Large-scale works boasting vibrant colours is something that, arguably, dominates the London art scene – starting from small contemporary galleries to bigger and louder arts venues. There is one word, however, that you do not run into often these days: pastels. There is a reason for that, as Kirk is only one of very few contemporary artists who work in pastel. However, as she says: “Working with pastels feels timeless – it is instinctual, almost primal.” In order to create these lively works, Kirk gradually builds the surface of each piece, adding different layers on top of each other to achieve the richness of the final landscape.
The themes explored here range from motherhood and isolation to humans’ relationship with nature. Motherships is a gorgeous piece of bright pink skies and blue rocky grounds, depicting a girl’s awakening with bursts of energy and femininity. The subject is positioned between the two elements, on the border between the sky and the rock formations, yet somehow within them both, embracing the ongoing transformation that takes her away from childhood and into womanhood. Each of the 12 pieces on show has these dynamics – they represent unaltered emotion with the means of physical natural objects.
While different colours dance together in untameable, tangled mixtures, there is often a human figure or two, maybe invisible at first sight, but always there. There is the young boy, staring at the viewer with eyes full of wonder and isolation, in the stunningly blue The Battle of Nant y Coed. He is almost hidden in the endless branches yet also defines them. Then there is the striking Perfect World, which sees a boy and girl in the middle of a lush forest. Somehow, they look lost, away from the composition, but they also appear to be part of it at the same time.
This is what makes Kirk’s new works exciting: they go beyond the beauty of their splendid colours and into the darkness of the mind. It seems like the use of raw pigments truly is the only way to explore these themes. The layered pastels create magical tales, bursting with emotion and inviting the viewer to get lost within them.
Photos: Adrian Dusman
Joanna Kirk is at Blain Southern from 9th September until 3rd October 2015, for further information visit here.