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JH

Painting Evanescent Light and the Human form

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Alexi Willemsen, Head of Hair, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm Alexi Willemsen, Bas Jan, 2012, oil on board, 395 x 295 mm Alexi Willemsen, Click click, 2012, oil on board, 395 x 295 mm Alexi Willemsen, Contemplation, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm Alexi Willemsen, Don't Settle, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm Alexi Willemsen, Inversion, 2012, oil on board, 395 x 295 mm Alexi Willemsen, Memo, 2012, oil on board, 400 x 400 mm Alexi Willemsen, Moon, 2012, oil on board, 400 x 400 mm Alexi Willemsen, Parents, 2012, oil on board, 400 x 600 mm Alexi Willemsen, Patterns, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm Alexi Willemsen, Timber, 2012, oil on board, 395 x 295 mm Alexi Willemsen, Rain, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm Alexi Willemsen, Shadow, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm Alexi Willemsen, Shy, 2012, oil on board, 395 x 295 mm Alexi Willemsen, Suspicion, 2012, oil on board, 295 x 395 mm

Her works are very pale and tonally matched, as if looking through a fog. The indistinct forms with fuzzy edges take a little getting used to, partly because the colour of these blurry oil paintings subtly changes with the hourly variations of natural light. And because of the lack of depth due to tonal regularity, the surface seems flat, devoid of any hint of perspective that might cut though the picture plane.

Auckland

 

Alexi Willemsen
image of light, adieu

 

3 October - 27 October 2012

With such an unusual title Alexi Willemsen seems to be declaring an ethos of pure impressionism, a fixation on the transitory effects of sunlight on surfaces and atmospheres. An apparent student of Monet, she graduated from Elam with a postgrad diploma, and now lives in Sydney.

Her works are very pale and tonally matched, as if looking through a fog. The indistinct forms with fuzzy edges take a little getting used to, partly because the colour of these blurry oil paintings subtly changes with the hourly variations of natural light. Often in their slightly grey, yellowy or blue haze, the human form is taut or flexed, or being held by another. Feet and hands (not toes or fingers) become more conspicuous than the rest of the (often horizontal) human form that tends to merge with the background. And because of the lack of depth due to tonal regularity, the surface seems flat, devoid of any hint of perspective that might cut though the picture plane.

To me, looking at this collection of 22 works (they are impossible to photograph) and their range of subject-matter - contrary to tradition - the landscapes are the weakest. They seem a little bland; flaccid; too open and devoid of dramatic incident. The really interesting works usually involve the ones I’ve mentioned, with the human figure and some points of intricate detail in the composition, focal areas (little ‘islands’) that draw you in within each shimmering field of caressed-on paint. Their complexity - usually involving arched torsos or stretching extended limbs - provides mental excitement.

Sometimes also her markmaking process alludes dottily to post-impressionism and pointillism, occasionally also modeled forms. Usually the stroked Monet-like approach to paint works best, making an even ‘skin’ that the eye can wander over and gently probe. They are mysterious, but also attempt to revitalize ideas of a hundred and twenty years ago.

There is also a strange psychology of the poses, figures sometimes lying face-down on the ground with bent limbs - as if a humorous mockery of somebody like Degas and the verticality of his models, or a reference to the prone figures of Seurat - a celebration of artificiality.

An unusual, engrossing exhibition.

John Hurrell

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