Rust-en-Vrede Gallery

Recent Paintings

Heather Gourlay-Conyngham

30 June – 23 July 2015

“Of the eleven paintings on this exhibition four are conventionally composed head-and-shoulder portraits while the rest depict people in various poses, some full- length and others three-quarter. Adrift, painted in 2012 and the only work completed before I won the SPI Portrait Award in 2013, serves as a thematic springboard.

An obvious thread running through these paintings is my interest in ‘whiteness’. The works include objects such as fabric, porcelain, hair and skin which appear to be white but are in fact constructed of multiple colours. Not only am I interested in the process of conjuring the illusion of apparently white objects, but also the allegorical role they assume. Fabric may, for example, be seen simply as woven cloth or, in relation to the posed figure, a shroud.

A second theme explored in these works relates to the gaze of the painted figure. In five paintings the subjects’ eyes are fixed on those of the onlooker while in the remainder the eyes are either closed or averted. I am interested in the effect this has on the viewer ─ it can engage or alienate, cause discomfort or pleasure.

I depict people I know and am interested in but endeavour to give each painting a life of its own. The model serves as the starting point for works that I hope will both stir the emotions of the viewers and live on in them.”

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