Fluorescent yellow, lilac, crimson, taupe; duck-egg blue, bottle green and sable; these colours jostle against one another in this exuberant group of recent works by Diane Howse. Completed over the course of the past two years, the works are a mixture of oil paint and oil stick layered, blotted, smudged and scraped onto both handmade paper and canvas.
For Howse, the physicality of the above practices are the means by which the final image is ‘excavated’ from the materials. She does not use sketches or preparatory works, and is not drawing directly from images or environments; instead, she finds her source material within her process. As colour is added and scraped back using fingers and brushes, fragmented planes and sweeping lines emerge from the viscous layers of pigment and paper buckles under the weight of colour. In some works, colour appears to straddle liquid and solid states, as painted paper and canvas begin to resemble a calcified oil slick. In others, stick and brush are used to scratch and dapple, rather than melt the colours together: less liquid crystal, more technicolour undergrowth.
These are abstractions that welcome traces of figurative projection. While she does not consciously incorporate recognisable forms into her works, Howse encourages the viewer to bring their own set of associations, generous in her accommodation of the inevitable pareidolia that abstract images often galvanise in us. Just as we may see faces in the knots of a tree trunk or landscapes in the striations of stone, the works of Zigzaggery elicit a stream of shifting impressions: neon-lit glass, a topographical rendering, pebbles glimpsed through water. Howse describes her experience of the world as characterised by a tendency towards hyper-observation, and through the small, jewel-like pieces in this exhibition we are able to follow the rhythms of her vision as forms oscillate in and out of focus while a certain colour or texture is homed in on and magnified.
In Howse’s own words, the title of this exhibition - Zigzaggery - is about ‘not going in straight lines, moving here and there.’ This sense of swift meandering recalls the motion of the artist’s hand, as transcribed onto the support; it also conjures the darting eye, traversing the built and natural environment to land on a glinting detail. Shown here are the afterimages of this appetitive vision. What do you see?
text by Sybilla Griffin