OUTSIDE is a show that explores four different
interpretations of interiors and exteriors. After a year when
many of us were stuck at home looking out, four artists share
Mandy Howe's work is part of her America Series. Her lines pulse with motion, conjuring the spiritual energy of cave paintings, superimposed over vast open spaces.
Boyd Totin’s small carved pieces capture the delicate, complex ordering of organic structures. His fused-wood sculptures look like three-dimensional puzzles whilst echoing human body-parts.
Manjula Padmanabhan uses 3D-paint on paper-collage to create simple shapes, such as leaves and birds, covered in a brightly coloured lace-work of dots, curls and dashes.
The fourth artist, Kelley Donnelly, is not shy about expressing her inner truths! Her work talks to us in words and cut-out images, stencils and paint. She tells us stories that include pain and anger as well as beauty, humor and most of all … Hope!
the energy and ideas present in my life on a daily basis, was my
I was interested in capturing emotions and the energy that exists in daily life and some of the ideas that bring me peace or cause distress. It is a journey of both ends of the spectrum that is intended to allow the viewer to interpret their own experience.
My hope is that the viewer will not only see the emotions of the paintings by the use of bright colors and energetic images but also connect to their own feelings about the image. Connecting with the painting to gain an emotional understanding brings forward a more powerful image: the idea that all messages, ideals, and individuals are important and need to be understood.
the Global Pandemic my paintings became global too. I let go of
focusing on a specific place and began exploring ways to
describe this time of enormous change and upheaval. In January I
decided to “Paint America” and began my America Series which to
date includes four large paintings.
Painting the landscape challenges me to develop my craft and my creative process, and to develop new structures to describe what I see and feel.
I’m also experimenting with printmaking. I extended a tree image from a 12”x12” linoleum block plate to a 12”x18” block and began gluing on words.
I call these “kitchen posters/teaching posters”: prompts for projects, journaling, discussions and conversations or just to help start the day.
early childhood, I worshipped the work of Italian and Dutch
masters. In my nine-year-old opinion, modernist, abstract and
traditional/symbolic art were complete rubbish. Gradually,
though, my horizons opened out. Today I like a broad range of
classical and contemporary work, across cultures.
Immediately after completing my degrees (BA Economics, MA History, both in Bombay), I dropped all academic pretensions to free-lance as a journalist, illustrator and cartoonist. I also left home and stopped accepting financial assistance from my parents. I was 21. In my view, that decision to cut myself loose from parental control was fundamental to my artistic journey. The struggle to pay my rent (which continues to this day) forced me to refine my skills as an artist and as a writer.
My work is extremely diverse. That may be its weakness. I am constantly looking for a single channel of expression that will fulfil all my needs as an artist. I haven't succeeded. I enjoy the quest too much.
My current body of work consists of sculptures constructed of layers of wooden blocks forming improbable biological and geological-like growths. The forms lie in the space between familiarity and abstraction with allusions to bone-like objects and other left-behind structural components of a body. The construction method of each sculpture aligns with geology and how nature organizes space. The blocks that make up the work are arranged on a grid evocative of the molecular formations of minerals and cells as well as the layout of maps and digital pixels. While each object is made individually, I don’t consider them independent of one another, but more as interdependent parts of past thought and memory that have solidified while continuing to grow.
Totin's pieces are so dense with ideas! What struck me first of all, was that each object, though unique and different to the others in the show, reminds me powerfully of Rorschach blots. Three-dimensional Rorschach blots! It's easy to imagine all manner of shapes and associations, revealing (no doubt) many layers of embarrassing truths about the viewer! I'll be brave and say that this piece suggests a combination of bat and face-mask to me. And a skull interior. But there's so much more than psychological associations to be delighted by, in each of these small, highly engaging construction-carvings. To make them at all – first fusing the different types of wood and then carving them, all the while planning the multiple insertions of countless rectangular bits – must involve immense patience, forethought and skill. Some pieces look like aerial views of teeming human settlements, nestled within warm wooden caves. Or the internal organs of immense, unknowable beasts. Each piece is rich with creative joy.
The image that fills this small painting is complicated. It suggests conflict and crossed purposes, a combination of organic shapes and thick fog; a solid gourd growing out of a bed of dreams. Buried within the bulging forms, a head blooms. Perhaps screaming. I don't know what I'm looking at: is it a conventional still-life of vegetables and lilies viewed through a trans-dimensional lens? Or is it something dredged up from the depths of the ocean, only to disintegrate at the surface? Is it a moment of transformation during which neither the beginning nor the end is recognizable? Will it change every time we look at it? Is it safe to look away? Is it safe to look at it? This is a painting that will smoulder wherever it is placed, a silent furnace of the kind that never goes out.
There are three photographs with the same title. The subjects are quite different from one another, but in each one, young children are engrossed by something. In the first, a girl of perhaps eight is entirely absorbed in a project involving beads and thread. By her side, a doll looks on with an expression of mild amusement. In the second, four young children are wholly engaged in conversation, one of them narrating a story while the others interrupt and build upon the narrative. In the third, a curious toddler reaches up to touch the bronze sculpture of seated figure, its head supported by its right hand. Each scene is bathed in sunlight, the children wearing summer clothing, their faces and expressions wholly unconscious of the precious freedom that they – and all of us – will lose in the pandemic.
A pair of sun-glasses with pearl-pink lenses looks out of the painting. The lenses catch the light, drawing our attention, but we can't know what they're looking at. They appear to have been set down absent-mindedly, perhaps in the back of the car, perhaps forgotten. They remind us of the picnics we have NOT been on in the course of this year, the cancelled beach-parties, the sun-lit gatherings that were never arranged. The collage of textures and newspaper fragments describe the clutter and loss of this time in limbo. Off to one side, like an afterthought, there's a printed cartoon of a man with an orange quiff and a manic grin. The faded colours remind us that his moment in the sun has passed, though the virus that ended his reign, has not.
Donnelly's work combines images, words and textures to create a series of public billboards, displaying private emotions. Looking at only one in the series, is like looking in through the small window of a storage unit containing an immense "otherness". It can only be glimpsed in tiny sections. This particular window shows me a flying figure. Is it Hermes? The figure has the winged helmet and sandals of the messenger-god of the Greeks yet the chest is covered and has a womanly shape. The expression is that of a young woman with sad eyes. Her wings are outspread, perhaps reflecting the title. Or perhaps the figure challenges us to spread the wings of our own minds. To soar beyond the borders of all that's safe and familiar. To alight in the wild and unexplored country of another person's life.
A tree with its branches flung out with wild, unbridled energy fills the space of this print. The tree is at once fierce and beseeching, powerful and vulnerable. It is dark in the way of a tree in winter and bare-branched, yet covered all over with the colour of lush green leaves. The air around the tree's branches vibrates with energy, furious with the mute power of the vegetal world, a visual depiction of the surge of need that fountains up out of the earth in spring time. The image is of a spirit that is both hugely self-sufficient and also desperate for air, sunlight, water, love. The entire composition is a marvellous evocation of the great tide of nature in which we are all caught, whether we want to be or not.
A bee nestles under the butter-bright petals of a Coreopsis in this quiet little painting. Its palette is spare: yellow flowers against the thin blue background but the beating heart of the composition is the bee. We see its wings in detail, a reminder of how fragile they are, thinner than the finest rice-paper, yet strong enough to bear the bee away, heavy with pollen, back to its hive. We can't quite see the creature's head, but we can imagine it, buried in the flower, as the bee feeds on nectar, vibrating with unknowable delight. Though the painting is small, it reminds us of the great distances the bee travels, the relentless toil of its life. And beyond the tiny furry body, the promise of honey.
Leyenberger's table sconces spring to life when they're lit up. The aquamarine-and-ivory of the porcelain gives off a golden light. The images impressed into the porcelain are like shadows cast on the walls of memory. The sailing boats in Newport's harbour tilt slightly, with the wind, with the tide, with the bodies of their sailors. One edge of each sail is lightly jagged, in the way of a Christmas tree. It's a playful visual double-entendre (including the pun on Sail and Sale) combining two unlikely pleasures, sailing and the holiday season. My fanciful mind finds another visual metaphor in the triangular shapes – sharks' fins slicing through the friendly waters! I push them aside, returning gladly to the Christmas trees, with their tiny ornaments dancing like sea-foam around the boats.
It takes a moment to decipher the image that we see in this powerful black-and-white photograph of windows. At first glance we see the windows of a neo-classical building contorted in the way of someone having a fit, someone in the grip of a terrifying experience. It's as if we're watching the effects of a powerful earthquake at the very moment that a building's façade crumples and yet – of course! – we know that it's only an illusion. The reflected building is only a play of light in the smooth skin of the supremely modernist structure in front of it. There's something cruel in the perfect geometry of the newcomer. It seems to mock the graceful lines of the older building, unaware of its own absolute fragility, as a palace made of glass.
This slender piece – dark cream, golden ivory and brown – is smaller than a slit-window in the stone walls of a medieval fortress. Within its narrow confines it contains two perforated screens, similar to one another except for their colour; three or four more complex surfaces including what looks like tree bark; one section is covered in coiled scribbles; one of the perforated screens has a hair-fine copper-wire wriggling in and out of it. The entire composition holds itself together with the taut confidence of small things. It might be a glimpse of sky-scrapers seen from a distance or else swatches of fabric on a busy couturier's table or … who knows! It is open to interpretation. It changes with each shift of the light.
Four pairs of clean, bare feet share the comfort of mats and cloth. The big toes of the first pair, closest to the left margin of the frame, are flexed back as if their owner is in the midst of telling a hilarious story. The second pair seem to belong to an older person. They look as if their owner is listening to the story with tired amusement while leaning companionably towards the third pair of feet. The toe-nails of this pair are painted and the feet look as if they grew up contained within shoes, yet they look perfectly at home here, released from bondage. The fourth pair are at the ends of a pair of legs that extend across the top of the frame. The feet poke past the right margin. Framing the photograph is a length of African textile. All the feet look as if they belong to women. The entire composition communicates the wonderful ease that comes from joyful friendships.
A long white fence fills the painting, end to end. Does it keep the viewer out or invite us to jump over it? I decide to enjoy the fence itself: the grain of the wooden posts, the pleasure (perhaps only imagined by me) of creating small differences within the rigid sameness of each post, the white bars scratched against the grey sky, the cool mood, the cold weather. The dense colour of the signboard, so hard and flat in contrast to the grass, equally dense but soft. In the distance, the buildings like punctuation marks in a poem about resilience. About boundaries. About territory. About a place that might not be home.
These three small figures perch on the wall as if poised for flight. They are impish and doll-like yet their names invest them with power: Gabriel, Raphael and Selaphal. Each name belongs to a known Biblical personality, presented here with more modern personalities, clothes and titles. The Archangel Raphael, for instance, has a label which reads: "Patron of the blind, sick (…) pharmacists, travelers (…) young people and happy meetings." One is coffee-coloured, one might be gay, one is a little flabby: none of them fits the familiar image of Archangels – tall, stately, otherworldly, remarkably feminine yet assumed to be male. All three of these small statuettes are provocative and lovable both at once. Archangels for our era.
This tiny study of a nymph at the moment when she merges with a tree is completely free of the terror that typically frames the myth. There's no divine oppressor, no panic. In simple black lines on unbleached paper, a young nude woman leans back into a tree with only the first traces of the transformation taking place. The whorl of the bark pressing towards her is mirrored by the whorl within her armpit. The curling black tangle of her hair merges with the shadows behind the tree. Her eyes are closed, the expression on her face calm: she seems to be relaxing into her escape. It's as if she welcomes this release from the stress of being chased, of being the object of desire. She turns her face away from the viewer with something close to relief.
This is a startling piece: a dark vortex poised above a flowing, joyful rainbow, neither one dominating the other. They occupy our attention in such a way that we cannot see one without the other. The first thought I have is that this is a visual representation of the glass half-empty, half-full. The Universe is both a light-less vortex and a riot of colour. Then I see another possibility. The vortex is our pre-birth existence, while the rainbow is the river of life that we enter at birth. Then I see that the vortex is rimmed with light. Maybe it's a gateway, not a vortex at all. Maybe the flowing colours in the lower half are frivolous whereas the darkness above is rich with expectation and the possibility of hope. Maybe the painting is an invitation to embrace the night alongside the daylight, without fear of either.