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Brenda Draney, "Julie," oil on canvas, 24" x 30", 2010.
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Brenda Draney, "Bruise," 2010, watercolour on paper, 18” x 24”.
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Brenda Draney, "Thrift Sale," 2009, oil on canvas, 16” x 16”.
BRENDA DRANEY, Hold Still
Latitude 53 Gallery, Edmonton
March 5 to April 10, 2010
By Amy Fung
Since taking home the grand prize in last year’s RBC painting competition, Slave Lake, Alberta-raised Brenda Draney has completed a new series of works that accentuate the absence of what we think we know. Premiering at Latitude 53 Gallery, Hold Still is a collection of paintings, drawings, and watercolours that focus on how we remember, as much as what we remember.
Since completing her Master of Applied Arts at Emily Carr, the Alberta-based painter has developed a strong aesthetic, transferring the sparse fragmentation of memories and rendering them with simplicity, to the point where all but the subject has been eloquently stripped away.
At first glance, the thickness and brightness of the paint against the whitewashed canvas is what’s most alluring. With so little present, the materiality of the paint rises to our central focus; but even with all its viscous presence, the images in Draney’s works appear to be drifting, lost in their own muted haze.
In drawings and watercolours, as well as this new body of paintings, Draney continues her exploration into the act of remembering, but has evolved a deeper interest in developing the weight of absence in her works.
In "Bruise", a stark watercolour of a blurred headless figure appears as if the surface of the image was a settling pond. With no other marks made to foreground or situate, the image emerges, rather than forms.
As the only work in the paper-based series that carries over that haunting essence in her paintings, “Bruise,” along with the painting “Thrift Sale” of a pair of legs from the waist down, may be indicators of what’s to come next for Draney. Both works discard everything but the essence of a moment, and largely because of that are the strongest works in the exhibition.
Playing with the depth of her images by contrasting light with dark backgrounds, Draney’s experimentation with painting on dark linen is an interesting development — her figures appear more embedded than hovering across the surface.
In "Julie", the figure of woman in a one-piece bathing suit, holds up her arm where there appears to be a bloody stump. Smudged in the center of the gesso-primed charcoal linen are small patches of red that are visually punctuated by the woman’s stump, and by her red mouth. The mind wanders into trying to pinpoint her expression: is it shock or cannibalism? There is a far more insidious tone to the works done on dark backgrounds, as the figures appear much deeper in scope.
Like her other works, it’s the distance between two interest points, between the blood and the figure, that provides an entry point for the viewer. The presence of absence invites us to fill in the literal blanks of the story rather than presenting us with a literal narrative. Showing a hardy sense of restraint in their sparseness, these works arguably exist somewhere between abstraction and representation, while still concerning the narrative.