Untitled Document
Carslaw St. Luke's

26 April - 31 May 2014

Nessie Stonebridge

Opening 26 April 12pm - 8pm

Resembling some sort of mid-air collision or interstellar explosions, the energy at the centre of Nessie Stonebridge’s paintings and drawings is centrifugal. Often small in scale, they nevertheless explode beyond their boundaries – their vectors suggestively reaching out beyond their pictorial edges into the gallery space. Stonebridge’s latest series of works draws inspiration from the bucolic, if wild and wind-battered Norfolk coastline, where she now has her studio. Previously rooted in London, Stonebridge’s palette has begun to soften to include murky and Romantic sea greens and stormy blues, although vivid moments of urbane post-punk pink and night-crawler black remain.

At the heart of each of these new images is a fury of beaks, encircled by fanlike, semi-abstracted wings. The result is an aviary of attack and defence, intimating the basic fight-or-flight behaviour of even the most diminutive of birds. Beyond their avian references, these images are impressive for their counterpoising of formal elements. The gestural brilliance of Stonebridge’s mark-making – her paint is scored and splattered with a palette knife, brush or by hand – is contained within a deliberate and considered structural vortex. We could go further and say that for all their allusions to natural and animal forces, Stonebridge’s paintings are fundamentally abstract. They re-route the energy of the external world into a painterly lexicon of sharp, curved edges and electric reds and yellows.

Stonebridge has become increasingly concerned with the edges of her paintings and drawings, often extending them out with quasi-sculptural elements, such as painted and concertinaed canvas, or long thin strips of wood resembling thin shelves or props. As a gallery-based dramaturgy, these arrangements invoke the restless excitement of Stonebridge’s practice. Stonebridge’s own allusions often verge on the violent or sexualised: she talks of the use of war fans as both weapons and shields in the Samurai arsenal, and of the use of fans in codified symbolic rituals in eighteenth-century France to indicate one’s sexual availability. She talks similarly of the enormous range of lurid colours in nature – the gold and vermillion of fauna and flora near her Norfolk studio: signals of attraction and danger. If we were to distil these works into a single word it would be ‘energy’ – and all the life-and-death struggles that word implies.