Deborah Poynton : Picnic

STEVENSON, Cape Town, South Africa
01 Sep 2016 - 08 Oct 2016

Deborah Poynton : Picnic

Deborah Poynton, Open Air 3 , 2016 (detail) , Oil on canvas 190 x 190cm, courtesy of STEVENSON

STEVENSON CAPE TOWN present Deborah Poynton’s eighth solo exhibition with the gallery, titled Picnic.

In this series of paintings and drawings, Poynton imagines the picnic as a metaphorical entry point for exploring concepts of pleasure, containment and freedom. These verdant scenes in secluded settings oscillate between hyperrealism and abstraction, underpainting and the unpainted; exposing the logic of their making and pointing to the illusory nature of the painted image.

Poynton writes:

I have painted this series of ‘picnic paintings’ because I like the idea that both picnics and paintings are fantasies about pleasure. A picnic can be a metaphor for a perfect, imaginary place where beauty and pleasure abound. A painting is the same; a self-conscious framework, a way of being contained, while also tasting a bit of freedom.

In spite of their four edges, these paintings are places with undefined borders. They weave abstraction together with veins of realism, so that the abstract is made more real, and the realism is made more abstract, and it doesn’t matter which is which because they are the same and neither is true. Like our conflicting desire for freedom and being held, they are two sides of the same coin.

Paintings are not really free. You might paint a picture to try to express a sense of wonder, as a response to being alive. But in trying to paint it, you inevitably domesticate it.  It’s a way of consuming the unconsumable, controlling the uncontrollable.  But if you imagine going outside, odd sticks, flowers, trees and grasses surround you. You could become more aware of parts of your body. You could become another object on the blanket, to consume or be consumed, and know that you exist. You could be quiet for a moment, and contemplate the idea of pleasure, if not the pleasure itself.

Poynton’s work agitates paradoxes between real and unreal, the pictorial and the perceived. This series brings focus to the acts of looking and being, positing the image as an intermediary between consciousness and emotion. The paintings and drawings are cast in an incomplete language, without pretence to any fully realised ‘meaning’. As such Picnic reveals both the possibilities and limitations inherent in images, and the complexities of their perception.

Deborah Poynton was born in 1970 in Durban, and lives in Cape Town. She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1987 to 1989. A survey of 25 years of her painting, titled Model for a World, showed at The New Church Museum, Cape Town, in mid-2014. She has held solo exhibitions at the KZNSA Gallery, Durban, in 2010, and the Savannah College of Art and Design’s galleries in Savannah and Atlanta in 2009, in addition to seven previous solo shows with Stevenson. Group exhibitions include Der Feine Riss: Zeitgenössische Malerei auf dem Historischen Feld (The Subtle Rift: Contemporary Painting in the Historical Frame) at Haus am Lützowplatz, Berlin (2016); Home Truths: Domestic Interiors from South African Collections, Iziko South African National Gallery (2016); I Love You Sugar Kane, Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, Port Louis, Mauritius (2016); Eros and Thanatos, SOR Rusche Collection, Oelde/Berlin (2012); Von Liebeslust und Lebenslast – der inszenierte Alltagat, Corvey Castle, near Höxter, Germany (2009); and What lies beneath, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Copenhagen (2006). A monograph on her paintings from 2008 to 2013, titled Pictures, was published by Stevenson in 2013.


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