As we move from the long lockdown of Winter into the promise of Spring, we are pleased to present Quickenings, an online exhibition exploring themes of Nature, transformation, and the anticipation of change through the work of four contemporary artists: Andy Harper, Charles Freger, Hellen van Meene, and Richard Stone.
Charles Freger’s portraits of European folk costumes capture the rituals that accompany the cycles of the seasons. All the images in this show come from Charles’s acclaimed ‘Wildermann’ series and relate to the move from Winter into Spring. Wren Boys in Northern Ireland celebrate the passing of midwinter; bear costumes in Italy chase away the ‘bad season’ of Winter; a man in England dresses as a tree to celebrate the coming season of growth; and an elaborate costume of a weasel in France hunts eggs that symbolise Spring and rebirth. Together they describe how the desire to put Winter behind us has prompted an array of rituals and myths.
Andy Harper’s paintings present complex webs of marks that suggest a synthetic form of nature. Oil paint is manipulated in precise and repetitive patterns to depict a dense imaginary undergrowth. It is a version of the organic conceived and created entirely by hand, and driven by logical patterns that imitate, but nonetheless differ from, those of the natural world. Lush and verdant, the paintings are also prickly and foreboding, and echo the relationship between humans and nature via that of the artist with their materials – a dynamic where the desire for transformation, creation, and abundance inevitably involves control and manipulation.
Hellen van Meene’s photographic portraits capture subjects in moments of change, be it from interior to exterior, from dark to light, or – as is often the case – between youth and adulthood. This liminal quality lends them a vulnerability and a psychological depth. They are beings caught in the conflicting feelings that the cusp of change can provoke: a desire to progress and grow into the new, together with trepidation at the uncertainty of the future. Dappled light and delicate fabrics all contribute to this sense of the ephemeral, and underline how change is an integral part of nature.
Richard Stone’s sculptures play with the boundary between stillness and movement. The works in this show use the motif of fabric to capture fleeting moments in the solidity of marble and ceramic. The textile acts like a veil hiding the unknown beneath while a wind of change shifts its surface, accented with intense hues that change the emotional tone of the moment and lend the works a glow. Richard also carries this approach into a solid mass of marble, where the weight of the material is tempered by soft undulations, moments of impermanence set down in stone.