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Headland: Woman in a Landscape

A modern reinterpretation of the ancient Three Graces myth is the subject of the upcoming exhibition by artist Francesca Lowe at Riflemaker, from 23 May 2011.

Headland: Woman in a Landscape consists of five large-scale heads, five symbol-laden tree paintings, and a group of ‘tree-cuts’ which invite the viewer to indulge in a game of symbolic decoding, to reveal a woman’s journey through the complex landscape of today.

In mythology the Three Graces are goddesses of unearthly attraction, beauty, and charm; men wanted them and women wanted to be them.  Throughout art history women have been painted from the male perspective and are usually depicted as being aware of the male spectator.  Lowe’s Graces flout this tradition.   The viewer is surrounded by the dramatic, large-scale canvases, executed in Lowe’s distinctive pastel with fresco-like washes.  This is an arena of intimidation, spectatorship and judgment, the domain of a coven-like ménage of five women.

Each figurehead’s thoughts are literally worn as lavish head garments or accessories, posing the question – what would happen if our thoughts were visible?  Aircraft, ammunition, and other war imagery are entwined in their headgear, a reference to the masculine power symbols that have been absorbed into female identity.  Turbines, propellers and water-wheels recur in the imagery, alluding to the driving cycle of life.

The bold compositional dynamics of the Graces work in contrast to the slow burn of the artist’s paintings, keeping the eye and mind in an almost constant state of flux.

Lowe’s Tree canvases – Grace, Abundance and Inertia – return to Lowe’s interest in the Tree of Life.  Grace spans the metaphorical paths that guide a woman’s life journey.  Each branch, named after a painting in the series, presents symbolic choices, their connotations and consequences.  The result is a map of images and symbols which flow from place to place.  Abundance with its cortex-like appearance, forms branches that hold positive and progressive thoughts, leading to a sense of well-being and security.  In contrast, Inertia mirrors the shape of the ominous Spade playing card, referencing the dysfunctional drives that can lead one to mental stagnation.

Upstairs at Riflemkaer are Lowe’s intricate Tree-Cuts.  Created by cutting into a complete, already-published book, the Cuts explore ideas of personal geography and self-improvement, by returning the paper to its original form.

Headland is curated by Virginia Damtsa

Showing: Monday 23 May – Saturday 2 July 2011
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 6pm
Riflemaker 79 Beak Street, London W1
Telephone: 020 7439 0000
Website: Riflemaker.org
Riflemaker is co-directed by Virginia Damtsa & Tot Taylor.

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