The Whitaker’s autumn/ winter offering fits perfectly with the season – the new exhibition On Shifting Ground by Joanna Whittle makes the dreariness of the weather into an appealing setting for a painter.
Joanna Whittle is an award winning artist and a member of the Contemporary British Painting Society. In her show at The Whitaker, the artist is showing her tiny oil paintings including recent pieces, as well as her signature works on loan from private collections. These are placed alongside artefacts from the museum collection, chosen by the artist to inspire a connection, or conversation, between the exhibits.
There is something deeply unsettling and comforting at the same time in Whittle’s work, causing the viewer to ask more and more questions the longer they spend with her work. At the same time you may find yourself unable to look away from the folds and textures of both the paint itself and the painted subjects. Whether it’s the atmosphere of a dark, Grimm-style fairytale or the curious subject matter of tents – temporary structures with fabric billowing in the wind, weighted down by the rain and mud and illuminated by bizarrely bohemian, colourful fairy lights.
These pieces are often painted on copper and it is this ground that gives them such luminosity and and almost otherworldly glow. The artist describes the small size of the paintings as resulting in a kind of hallucination for the viewer, a break from reality as we get closer to peer into the painted scene opening up before us, much larger than the 10 x 15cm canvas would suggest.
Dealing with themes of ritual, transience and mourning, Whittle experiments with ways of portraying memorials, temporary gestures left behind in the landscape in the form of physical structures. Tents in her real and imagined landscapes suggest a sense of ephemerality, a temporary appearance of something or someone who will soon be moving on, or away.
If you’re looking for an atmospheric and intimate art experience where giving the artwork your full attention is absolutely key, make sure to visit On shifting ground – you will not leave unmoved.
If you’re visiting the Whitaker, make sure to also take around ‘Selma Makela: Future Haunting’, also currently on display in the gallery.