REVIEW of EXHIBITION of Ellen Graubart's work at the The Millinery Works Gallery.
Geometry has exerted a powerful influence on many artists and schools of art throughout history. ‘The Golden Section’, although not geometrical in the visual sense, is a mathematical concept and has probably been at work on artists’ compositional awareness since ancient times. In the modern era the visual impact of geometry has been more explicit. With his concern for the inner structures of things in the visible world Cezanne wrote of ‘treating nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone, all in perspective’ – Fernand Leger could be said to have been even more ‘up front’ with cylinders, spheres and cones; his were not part of the structure – they were the structure! (his nudes are possibly an acquired taste). The facets into which the Cubists fragmented their pictures were of simple geometric shapes, no matter how complex the finished structures, and, of course, geometric abstraction has taken this approach to its ultimate form of expression, witness Mondrian, Van Doesberg, Albers, Vasarely – and so on.
This sensitivity to the structure of things shines through the art of Ellen Graubart, a selection of whose work is on show at the Millinery Works Gallery in Islington 9 April-4 May 2008. Graubart makes her impact not so much by teasing essential structures out of objects, as by superimposing them (usually in the form of grid patterns) upon the figures she is painting. This is a bold move, but here it works at different levels. For one thing the hypnotic effect of the grid patterns causes the viewer, in some strange but compelling way, to focus on the images represented and to make him more acutely aware of their essential nature. Thus, in ‘Archer In The Night Sky’ the wonder of gazing at the firmament until we descry the titanic figure of Sagittarius is heightened by the fragmented sky, sparkling darkly at us, drawing us on, ultimately revealing a hidden reality. Similarly, in ‘Loss’, the gently coruscating facets soften the impact of the mother holding her dead child, perhaps making the viewer less invasive of her grief. ‘Blackbirds In The Mulberry Tree’ is a riot of happy movement with the grid, painted in soft tones, blending with the foliage and sharpening the busy fluttering of the birds.
'Blackbirds in the Mulberry Tree': Ellen Graubart
On another level Graubart simplifies and adapts the geometry to make it reinforce the dynamics of her canvas. In ‘Sailing With Garrett’ a subtle interplay of diagonal lines and curves weaves sinuously around the image of two yacht’s sails, seen from below, towering upwards to come close against the blue of the sky. In this picture the sensation of space and clean sea air is tangible. The artist has achieved a unity of the swooping lines of the geometry and the sail figures.
Quite apart from the aspects discussed above mention should be made of Ellen Graubart’s handling of colour. So sure is this that all her canvases positively glow on the walls, and no matter what else the viewer may or may not be looking for he/she cannot fail to be impressed by its visual beauty.
'Sailing with Garrett': Ellen Graubart
The Millinery Works Gallery
85/87 Southgate Road
London N1 3JS
Tel: 020 7359 2019
The gallery space is bright and beautifully appointed and is accessed through premises where furniture and artefacts of the British Arts and Crafts Movement are a speciality. The management warmly welcome visitors.