Within this exhibition, Le Lievre presents four slightly different threads of visual research – bodies of work related via their maker’s wonderful feel for colour and her equally admirable control of touch. Though, to call her touch controlled is perhaps misleading. In the Interior Motifs
works for example, Le Lievre pours oil paint, then trails graphite lines with an intent that is both careful and full of play. The combination can be breathtaking. The result: a series of seemingly random meetings between pigment and casual line within the visual field which comprises each painting. That field is quite contained – contained within an oil medium carefully prescribed on a ground of Le Lievre’s signature duck-egg blue. The base is quiet and flat. Line and colour sing upon it, laced variously into, over and around the other within shallow space.
Visually, the recipe looks similar in the Paraphenalia
paintings. Except that notions of containment or confinement are established not by a field of oil medium, but by high viewpoint - that lovely old-fashioned device of looking down at a table top, or at the paraphernalia thereupon. Not surprisingly, these domestic objects seem more felt than described. Contours are irregular and space confined. It is pools of dreamlike and illogical colour that lift these paintings. They are majestic painterly constructions more than they are domestic still lives. These are darker psychological studies – direct and honest, wild and weird - much more than they are polite, quiet or decorous.
A similar edge pervades the two big Marked paintings in this show. Layers of oil paint are lovingly poured and pulled by hand, building up deep luscious fields of violet and cerulean blue respectively. The pigments are rich and beautiful. They exude a glazed intensity. Then Le Lievre takes to them with the edge of her palette knife, recklessly scratching and scarring their surfaces. Oil is torn right through underpainting to the canvas beneath. Lucky, not to tear the canvas, but enough to scarify the surface as in a frenzied attack. Scarily cathartic perhaps?
- There is a dark energy also, about the exhibition’s title work Trappings (Lamp Black)
. Eye-catchingly hung above She (Traps)
, a black cloud of emulsion threatens the delicate figure below – itself caught within a thick veil of blue-green oil paint. There is a sense of turmoil and threat. She of the painting’s title wears (seemingly) a crown of thorns. Entrapment or escape? With the weight of the world – well, with a serious weight of oil painting upon her shoulders. Is this Le Lievre pondering the age-old artists’ dilemma: to acknowledge tradition and context, whilst also resisting and creating significance for themselves and those around them? And is such a position – finding it, laying it out and maintaining it – any more difficult for a woman?
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.