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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Ena Swansea

b. 1966, USA

New York-based artist Ena Swansea's large-scale paintings offer intimate snapshots of the contemporary American social and natural landscape. Nicknamed 'slow' paintings for the long durations they require to be completed, her works navigate a dreamlike world, resting between fiction, reality and memory. Drawing inspiration from reproductions of paintings found in books and her background in film, Swansea experiments with uniting disparate source material with traditional painting techniques.

Swansea's works are known for their reflective and iridescent surfaces, which the artist creates by painting with oil on a background layered with a special graphite mixture. The graphite's metallic sheen is visible through the paint, adding a luminous, ephemeral quality to the images. In a way, the graphite texture functions like a screen by allowing the painting to appear as though its imagery shifts with light.

Drawing particularly from her Southern roots (Swansea grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina), she manipulates scenes of city and rural life until the images become ambiguous. Swansea's concern with the South is associated with Thomas Dixon Jr, who was a Southern Baptist minister, white supremacist and the artist's great-great-grandfather. His duality—preaching mortal sin on one side and participating in immoral activities on the other—has led her to search for contradictory moments in her surroundings. Scottish marching band (2017)—a depiction of a marching band during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City—for example, developed from Swansea's notion of 'parade' as both a spectacle and an event that is 'somehow so wrong', according to her 2008 interview with The Brooklyn Rail. At the same time, Swansea denies the presence of narrative content or emotional overtone in her artworks, commenting that 'certain images are flexible; they can be about different things depending on who is looking.' Grounded in reality yet hazy in depiction, Swansea's paintings reflect the various possibilities of human perception, prone to changes and divergences.

While much of Swansea's inspiration derives from contemporary life, some recurring subject matters echo the concerns of Impressionist painters. The Delight of Painting (2013)—a solo exhibition at 313 Art Project in Seoul—included paintings of seascapes and haystacks in the countryside. Concerned with the changing light of the sky, the works on display revisited Monet and his fellow painters' similar fascination. The 'backlit waves' (2012) series encapsulated the moment when the sun sets or rises from the sea and when, for a brief moment, the light hits the water from the behind.

Swansea studied film at the University of South Florida. She has exhibited extensively in cities in the United States, South Korea and Europe. In 2008, the Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg organised her first museum survey. Swansea has also been included in numerous group exhibitions, notably Greater New York 2005 at MoMA PS1, New York (2005).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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snowman follows baby by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseasnowman follows baby, 2018 Oil, acrylic and pigment on linen
142.2 x 142.2 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
snowman and man by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseasnowman and man, 2018 Oil, acrylic and pigment on linen
121.9 x 182.9 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Central Park pond by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena SwanseaCentral Park pond, 2019 Oil and acrylic on linen
208.3 x 274.3 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
into the trees by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseainto the trees, 2018–2019 Oil and acrylic on linen
218.4 x 101.6 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
view from the sex pier by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseaview from the sex pier, 2016 Oil and acrylic on graphite on linen
239 x 345 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
view from the country club by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseaview from the country club, 2017 Oil and acrylic on cotton
152.4 x 121.9 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
frozen creek by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseafrozen creek, 2017 Oil and acrylic on linen
289.6 x 228.6 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts
get out by Ena Swansea contemporary artwork Ena Swanseaget out, 2017 Oil and acrylic on linen
241.3 x 279.4 cm
Ben Brown Fine Arts

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Ena Swansea, mental map: Central Park at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong
Closed
18 January–15 March 2019 Ena Swansea mental map: Central Park Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Ena Swansea, Ena Swansea at Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
Closed
2 February–12 April 2018 Ena Swansea Ena Swansea Ben Brown Fine Arts, London

Represented By

In Related Press

When Innovative Art Meets Traditional Surroundings Related Press When Innovative Art Meets Traditional Surroundings HuffPost : 26 April 2016

An older woman in the art scene once told me, 'How we experience art is as important as the art itself.' After witnessing high ceilings and transformative décor in one of the most traditional areas of New York City, I had quite an experience indeed.

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A Showcase for Browsers and Buyers Related Press A Showcase for Browsers and Buyers Karen Rosenberg : 13 November 2014

'The Salon: Art & Design,' the toniest of the November fairs (and certainly the one with the most aristocratic title), reminds you how the categories of art and design tend to blur in the rarefied world of ultra-high-end décor.

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Ena Swansea Paints Arles Bullfight Related Press Ena Swansea Paints Arles Bullfight Daily Beast : 30 September 2010

'I'm in the middle of painting the Goyesque,' the artist Ena Swansea texted from the Roman amphitheater in Arles just a couple weeks ago. When we finally spoke hours later, there was such a background din that it wasn't much of a call. 'I'm in with all the matadors,' Swansea explained.Perhaps I should backtrack here.

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Ena Swansea with Irving Sandler Related Press Ena Swansea with Irving Sandler The Brooklyn Rail : 10 May 2008

On the occasion of her two recent one-person exhibits, a survey show at MUDAMLuxembourg (Musée d'Art Moderne Grand–Duc Jean), curated by Marie-Claude Beaud (on view till February 2, 2009), and new paintings at Arndt & Partner Zurich (on view till November 22, 2008,) Rail Consulting Editor Irving Sandler welcomed the painter Ena Swansea to his...

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