Abby McGuane at Zalucky Contemporary February 2018

Abby McGuane delves into being. Being in the body. Being in and out of the frame.Being held in time, being held in space. In Tableaux Extant the artist presents a series of new paintings, identical in scale and size, of a singular body: hers. The process involves the artist tracing her shadow in graphite on the linen and then applying a solid monochromatic layer of matte acrylic paint to denote negative space. A third and final layer of oil paint is added in thick layers to form boundaries that frame the figure. To draw her silhouette, the artist’s body must perform a dance; a choreography of placement, positioning and duration. In that moment she is in movement and her body becomes still only once she is prepared to render the image. The final form and shape still retains something of a residual tremor of that movement; still electric, forever dynamic. McGuane’s selection of pastel colours (light yellows, pinks, creams, blue and taupe) create a calming effect, yet the boundaries surrounding each figure allude to a tension that is simultaneously present yet unknowable; what happened just before or just after the work was made? What is left outside the frame? If we view the image as a body frozen in the midst of a performance, do the solid bands mark-out a stage? And if so, what kind of stage? What is being performed? And for whom? The artist describes these works as “sketches”, “fast paintings” and “snapshots” in her attempt to capture movement. Footprints are visible on the canvas; the left hand is present, but the right hand is not (the right being the hand that traces her shadow). The elements displayed test the restrictions of the oeuvre and material itself, creating a conversation between the performative and the painted. By performing shape, she reminds the viewer that she was here. The female body was here; in motion and then in stillness. There is a beauty and softness in the forms portrayed. Amongst the layered borders, distortions and metamorphosis, we see a part of her, but not all of her. Here, a female body gestures, flows and holds space within these multiple frames and borders, while also pushing against them, taunting and evading their confinement. Even with our eyes on her, this dance is her own.


- Jenn Goodwin