Posted on August 4, 2014
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What I see in the mirror is a woman who has learned a little. I see the ageing animal, yes, (it is hard to forgive one's flaws and one's decay) but also see a survivor, a thinker, a lover, a mother.
A painter has to confront big issues. It matters in many ways more what you paint than how you do it. As part of my upcoming solo show in October, Death and Desire: We are all Animals, I have been looking at our connection with the earth, and how that informs us.
‘Mammal’ is an ash tree. The tree's scars and wounds are grown, monumentalised on my canvas. The more I worked on it, the more it became increasingly female, and deliberately elephant-like. Elephants are close to humans in their nature, and of course a matriarchal society. They never abandon their young, even if it means that they are deserted by the herd and ultimately die with the child. They grieve their dead scattering their bones ritually year upon year. They are born looking old, as if their gravity and wisdom, are the point. In short the very acme of mother.
'Humans do not have immortal souls. Desire and Death is what we are. Sex is revenge on death and desire is confrontation of mortality.'
Our declining physicality is often experienced as a daily humiliation of the body; the sense of forgetting, a reduction in strength or that a perceived beauty is failing.
Women in the moneyed West fight this tooth and nail (‘She mustn't let herself go’); and it is this fight that this work explores. ‘The Show Must Go On’, is the largest in the series. A Norfolk Bronze turkey with collar and cuffs, blue black ruff feathers still attached, taken from life, quite literally, and displaying an anthropomorphic paradox of energy and weariness. Though painted on a monumental scale (2.5m x 3.5.m, 8 ½ by 12 ½ feet) she emerges, in her defiant independence, dignified and surprisingly intimate. Beyond the greasepaint and cabaret feathers that disguise her trying, her momentary successes, her failings, and her dying. ‘The Show Must Go On’ ultimately a memento mori, that ageing and mortality escape no one.
Thanks so much to WK Lyhne. You can see more by visiting her website, or by at her exhibition 'Death and Desire: We are all Animals' at Cock 'n' Bull Gallery, 123 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG between 2nd and 19th October 2014.