Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Painting the Seen and the Unseen

“I tend to conjure up an idea for a painting when I am doing something mundane
- riding a train, riding in a car, cleaning my house, trying to fall asleep.”
Anna Conway

For the American narrative painter Anna Conway her imagined reportage is concerned with depicting the world and our place in it at a particular point in time.

As she said in a statement to the 2014 New America Paintings exhibition “My paintings depict fragments of unfolding narratives in which ordinary people are suddenly confronted by forces greater than themselves. The viewer is privy only to the instant of disruption, not to its cause or effect.”

The invented figures we see in her paintings are derived from those she has met over the course of her life which evolve in her mind as real people with a past, present and future.

A process she explained to The Morning News’ Rosecrans Baldwin “I remember someone once referring to a woman, and when they said her name, they just referred to her as her husband’s name with a Mrs. in front. I recall thinking that the entire individual name her parents had given her was gone, and that seemed sad, like the girl she had once been had disappeared. I named a painting Mrs. Lance Cpl. Shane O’Toole and Mrs. Staff Sgt. Brandon Stevens (see below) after hearing that. When it came to titling that painting, I felt this empathy for the characters I had painted. I imagined them to be women who felt insignificant and weak, and identified themselves as someone attached to someone else, that someone else being more important and powerful.”

Conway is not a prolific artist having only made twenty-six paintings in last fifteen years, a tardiness that suggests invented epiphanies are not as easy as they seem.

For as she has said “My protagonists are placed in settings that are familiar but just slightly outside the everyday. Ambiguity is derived from our inability to know subjects’ internal epiphanies. Often, these are the quiet moments that change lives, the ones we try to express before coming to the embarrassed conclusion that they are indescribable in their simple profundity: “How was work?” “Well, I . . . it was . . . um, you know.”

Conway’s current exhibition Purpose is on show at Italy’s Collezione Maramotti until the 31st of July.

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