Widely admired, British artist Rebecca Meanley’s abstract paintings exhibit a remarkable orchestration of bold colour and gesture. The contemporary artist notes her interest in canonical modernists and abstractionists such as Willem De Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Philip Guston, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly. She shares: “I am concerned with contemporary abstraction and abstract painting and the gestural end in particular. This is where I situate what I am trying to achieve - colour, depth, gesture, rhythm, movement, physicality, composition and sensation - and all this happens in the 'event' of painting. This is the belief that something significant happens in the act of making: the unanticipated, the unexpected, the action and response dialogue between artist, a material and a surface.”
In part, the power of Meanley’s work reflects this process, the beauty and loose dynamism of her painting unfurling through this way of working. As well, most recently a new body work has transformed the appearance of colour and form. These innovative experimental pieces composed of pure pigment and rabbit skin glue have allowed this artistic journey to unfold further as a search “for something, undoing old methods, painting and 'unpainting' (my term).” In this way, Meanley found herself “working with indeterminacy, intuition, improvisation, not knowing, being lost a lot of the time....Something transformative happened - I realised I was in a new world in my studio, it was, still is, the most liberating experience and I am still in it but trying to find a way forward - as everything has changed.”
It is precisely this moment of being transported into a place of sensation, awash in the depth and vibrancy of deep and aqueous colour, a sensation of submergence and beauty all at once that characterizes the power of Meanley’s practice. In thinking about the experience of making art and being a viewer, she points Paul Klee’s statement “Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible” as well as the phenomenological philosophy of Maurice Jean Jacques Merleau-Ponty.
In Meanley’s masterful and striking abstract compositions there is an evocation of unfettered materiality, experiment, gesture and the luxurious tactility of paint and painting. Loose gesture and rich pigment create atmospheric veils of resplendent colour. A synthesis of form, experiment and the history of abstract practice coalesces in these works to create a new genre of contemporary abstraction that offers a sense of joyful sensation in paint and painting.
Rosa JH Berland