Maiden’s Ordalie – Amélie Barnathan
20th July – 1st August 2021
Dozens of young girls in red skirts and ankle socks play in a sort of endless farandole. They have strict hairdoes too. Their slender bodies already show the signs of burgeoning femininity. In some, emerging breasts start to highlight the waistline. Bodies are exposed, offered for us to see. Nothing scandalous except postures that reveal a nascent sexuality, allowing each girl the sudden and liberating joy to discover her body. Some are dancing. Their new emancipation is acted out in the form of round dances, minuets and gestures that fit graceful with the lavish nature around. The set consists of a few blades of grass and trees, hints of a jungle. Their candy-like colors imbue the picture with an atmosphere of quietness and deep softness. A few mountains on the horizon. However, a terrible shadow punctuates the scene through the tortured bodies of other young girls.
There is something intolerably brutal. But all the girls seem to enjoy this savagery as if it was a game. Here and there, a few monsters cleverly hide in the crowd, along with giant skulls of antediluvian animals the girls use as a playground for their twisted punishments. We are looking at a theater of cruelty where the worst abuses are carried out. A theater of death, and of joy too. Eros and Thanatos all at once.
The art of Amelia B. is everything but innocent. It disturbs and confuses viewers, and painfully forces them to make up their minds. Are we looking at a brilliant repertoire of complex references to art history or at a radical questioning of the feminine psyche? A matter of sensitivity. Also a matter of opinion on what an artwork can convey.
For Amelia B., drawing is a form of constant battle. We can sense a revolt against a prevailing order, the invasion of images in our life. The work of this young artist who graduated from the Royal College of Arts of London in 2016 has little to do with the fantasized version of reality portrayed in today’s media and social networks. On the contrary, her work alludes to a vast and unbounded imagination. With Amelia, drawing is a claim: that of a slow-paced, solitary and refined practice. Her art seems to emerge from a performative strategy that allows her to put on paper a world that constantly questions identity from a female point of view. In that context, we should see in that crowd of young girls the manifestations of an almost psychoanalytical take on the conditions
of identity building, and sexuality in particular.
Let’s not be mistaken, Amelia’s protagonists, with similar profiles
but different attitudes and gestures, are variations of the same type: the girl transitioning from childhood to adolescence, right before adulthood. They could all be sisters of one another, their alter egos, or Doppelgänder – the evil twin of Nordic traditions. Every girl takes the role of victim and executioner in an endless round dance where roles are constantly interchanged. Bliss and suffering go hand in hand. These protagonists draw the symbolic portrait of Amelia B. as much as they present a universal vision of the Western feminine unconsciousness.
The artist often talks about the intentions behind her work, presenting it as an exploration of mass psychogenic illness (MPI), a phenomenon that emerged with modern society and the rise of subjectivities. MPI is a specific form of hysteria. It can manifest in groups of young adolescents suddenly adopting violent, mystical
and ecstatic behaviors, as was famously exemplified by groups of female fans at rock concerts in the 60s.
Hysteria! We are now fully aware that the very concept of hysteria, as clinically defined by Charcot at the end of the 19th century, came from a desire to normalize women’s social and sexual behaviors. We also know that it took part in a double-faceted phenomenon. For the “patients”, it was about claiming a repressed sexuality, but also about a form of compliance with the norms imposed by male patriarchy. Both a revolt and a surrender tangled in a complex play around the forms of physical and symbolic control over women’s bodies.
While Amelia B.’s work develops a reflection on the feminine collective as well as the ritualized forms of repressed sexuality, it also captures this crucial transitional moment when every girl grows into a woman, going from an asexual body into a desiring one, while at the same time subjected to social norms and fantasies.
This spontaneous violence can take the form of extreme self-punishment (up to anorexia and self-mutilation) or symbolic brutality toward others, both rivals and friends. Here, the drawing takes on its full meaning, as it is not about objectively documenting what lies under teenage consciousness (as Charcot did with photography), but about capturing the many forms of sexual subjectivity through the means of drawing and imagination. In other words, this young artist knows that the communication technologies, the social media and the new ways
of transforming our bodies are not tools to liberate us but norms that imprison us in a way all the more so pernicious as they are collectively accepted and solidified, including by women. In the face of the photographic image and fictionalized reality (play on genders) that we see on social and general media, Amelia waves drawing and the distance of imagination as a form of resistance.
But the power of Amelia’s work also has to do with her back and forth between the great History of art and its lesser-known chapters. For he who pays attention, Amelia’s drawings are filled, almost haunted, by the monstrous, possessed and repressed feminine figures that have populated Western imagination since
Antiquity, such as the maenads, these women who used to celebrate the cult of Dionysus in violent screaming trances characterized by provocative postures. Amelia’s work also draws on the shamefully vast witch iconography, which, for centuries, constituted the standard mode of representation of the “crazy” woman dangerous for social order. There are many examples of such references: we could mention Charcot’s well-known photographs of hysteric women, the first pictures of criminal women taken by the police in various countries of the world, pictures of the first protests of the suffragettes presented as mental women. The long history of these kinds of depictions offers a wide panel of attitudes the artist likes to appropriate. More concretely, Amelia B. draws some of her inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch, from who she borrows openly fantastic imagery -manifest in her depiction of monsters- as well as the frieze format. Amelia’s work also bears traces of classical art, especially in the conscious elaboration of her compositions. But her practice also shows more contemporary and popular
influences, like that of the Italian, Spanish and Mexican comics of the 70s filled with sadistic monsters and neo-Nazis raping and torturing innocent women with generous breasts, as well as the more recent Japanese comics with their sexy and rebellious heroines ready to kill any male getting in their way.
All these references underlie Amelia’s imaginary world, along with part of the recent cinematographic production finally featuring young warrior women that disrupt gender hierarchy. As for Henry Darger, the drawer Amelia is most often compared with, he remains a vague reference the artist parts from on many levels. While the works of this American artist who died in 1973 are filled with hundreds of preadolescent women subjected to the assault and torture of an army of despots, in a manner reminiscent of Amelia’s, Darger’s work contains
a form of perversion and fetishism (especially visible in some of his postures that indulgently reveal the secret innocence of young female bodies), which is totally absent from Amelia’s work. The latter also owes a lot to the rich iconography of Catholic saints. From classical paintings to church sculptures (the ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini at Santa Maria Della Vittoria in Rome) to 19th-century chromolithographs representing saints in beatitude in the presence of God, such iconography offers Amelia a rich repertoire of attitudes, from the most
obvious suffering to the most intimate bliss.
Amelia’s drawings crossbreed many references, which fusion participates in the representation of adolescent women as “desiring machines” (Deleuze and Guettari) and “technoliving platforms” (Donna Haraway). If the reconfiguration of the self requires extreme self-inflicted violence or symbolic violence toward others, so be it. But to reach maximum efficacy, this unleashing of a repressed unconsciousness had to take the drawing form, in a style and color palette that expresses the full delicacy of a fantastic and resolutely complex feminine
inner world. Damien Sausset.
Amelia B. (Amelie Barnathan) was born in 1991. She lives and works in London. She graduated from the London College of Communication in 2014 and the London Royal College of Arts in 2016. “Unsolemn Rituals” (her master thesis at the Royal College of Arts) was awarded by the Jeerwood Drawing Prize in the student category, in 2016. Her works also draws on the writing of Karl Jung, Georges Didi-Huberman and Joseph Campbell, and their theories of the shadow and the alter ego. Amelia B. has exhibited in London, Paris, China and Mexico. Since 2018, she is has been represented by Galerie 8+4 in Paris and participated to several contemporary art fairs like Fiac, Art Paris and Luxembourg Art Week. Her work has entered several French and international collections.
6th – 18th July 2021
Calm Continuum – Nicole Phillips
Whilst our daily lives have been interrupted this past year, nature has continued regardless and in some cases thrived in our absence. Nicole has used this unique time and experience to create a body of work focused on nature but reflecting the very human emotions felt throughout. From one day to the next, imperceptible changes occur in nature without note. Nicole has been inspired by what would normally be overlooked. Needless to say the process of painting more often than not brings calm to the painter and hopefully the audience as well.
Nicole is a Midhurst based artist who’s work is inspired by nature and the local landscapes and seascapes. Her work is expressive and impressionist in style and features water colour, ink, acrylic and screen printing. Nicole completed her Ba Hons Degree in Ceramics & Print Making at Bath College in 1996 and since then has worked professionally as an Artist, Ceramic Artist and Textiles Designer but now focusses almost entirely on painting and printmaking.
22nd June – 4th July 2021
Printmaking – Daphne Casdagli RE
Daphne’s landscapes are choreographed from observation and a manipulation of media.
More recently the figure has been the subject over a period of time, drawing from the model. This has enabled the drawings to be translated into a method of drypoint and collagraph maintaining an exuberant spontaneity.
8th – 20th June 2021
‘Waterscapes ‘ – An exhibition of paintings by Catherine Barnes
Catherine Barnes studied at Folkestone School of Art, Camberwell School of Art and Crafts and Goldsmiths’ College, London. She first worked designing, exhibiting and teaching in London. In 1985 she founded Juno Studio in Hampshire, and appointed a lecturer in Art History at the University of Southampton and a visiting artist at Southampton City Art Gallery.
In 2001/3 and she was selected for London Art Fair “Fresh Art” and has continued to exhibit in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Cork, Dublin, Florence (2011 Biennale), Paris and Rotterdam, with a number of solo shows in London, and since moving here in 2006, in Chichester.
“Although a Londoner, I was brought up in Dover and the sea has played an important part of my life. I have sketchbooks full of drawings of the English South Coast, especially Pagham, Normandy, and Greece. Living in Winchester the River Itchen was at the bottom of our garden. Lockdown in Chichester city meant no seaside trips. But a few hundred yards from my house runs, occasionally, the River Lavant winding around and underneath Chichester College. It became a place of solace on my early morning walks. The river became my companion and started to develop a personality, sometimes full flow, sometimes in trickles and then just puddles. The River Lavant became a subject that sustained me throughout Lockdown, and a worthy subject to stand beside some large dramatic seascapes.”
11 – 23 May
John came from a painting family; his father and brother were professional graphic and fine artists, but John graduated in agronomy and developed a busy career mainly with I.CI/Zenica, latterly in business management and with much time abroad. In those days painting was a relaxing hobby.
Since retiring, his artwork has become much more important, but apart from a few short courses he remains largely self-taught.
Painting in watercolour, John covers a wide range of subject matter including landscapes and wildlife. He derives particular inspiration and pleasure from the form and mood of the Sussex and Hampshire countryside, especially the downs.
John’s interpretations are fairly literal and he aims to capture the feel and mood of the subject while retaining the freshness and spontaneity of watercolour.
John has exhibited widely in Sussex and Hampshire through galleries, group exhibitions and art societies. He is a full member of The Association of Sussex Artists and participates annually in the Chichester Art Trail. Visitors to his studio in East Marden are welcome whether they be browsers or buyers. Purchasers of his work have come from all over Britain and many countries overseas.
27 April – 9 May
David Meeking, ‘Spaces and Places’
The idea behind the exhibition is for the viewer to be taken on a journey to an imagined space or place from memory providing escapism particularly in the current climate we find ourselves experiencing. The work is a mixture of Oil and mixed media, some work involves layers of paint being applied in layers and scraped back to reveal hidden paint colours a process that takes time and patience.
“I am particularly inspired by the faded walls found in the Mediterranean and weathered coastlines. I have previously exhibited at the Oxmarket but am looking forward to the revised Gallery layout which I feel will appeal to people I am grateful to the Gallery for providing me with this opportunity and feel that after the last 12 months there is appetite to both exhibit and view Art again.”
13 April – 25 April
Artist Alyson Lomas has always painted and studied at St Martins School – London, Laird School of Art – Birkenhead and gained her BA (Hons) from Liverpool University. Following this she studied at the Winchester School of Art and went on to lecture in Fine Art for 17 years. Alyson was awarded an Arts Council grant to develop her practice.
Alyson’s work reflects her memory of landscape, the colours, shapes and textures are associated with remembered places. The relationship between colour and shape evolves through various stages until a feeling of ‘rightness’ emerges.
Her paintings celebrate the return of some colour in our lives after a very difficult year for everyone. Alyson is showing original paintings together with framed and unframed prints.
Alyson has lived on the West Sussex coast for four years and this is her second exhibition at the Oxmarket Gallery.