FNB Joburg Art Fair in association with STEVENSON is pleased to present an installation of paintings by Deborah Poynton entitled Arcadia.
The installation comprises 11 paintings hung together tightly in a single room and creates the sense of standing in a decayed concrete folly at twilight and looking out through the pillars into a liminal, overgrown landscape that surrounds the viewer on all sides.
At one end of the room, in the half-light, a partly concealed car is parked with one door ajar, and at the other end, a decaying pond of dark water and reflection is like an unused door to dreams that are on the edge of memory.
The scene recalls a secret garden full of threat and invitation, a wilderness that was once tamed into parkland and is now reverting to its natural state.
Arcadia is a pastoral idyll, a place where humans lived in peace with nature, impossible to re-enter. It is perhaps because it is a landscape of innocence that the only two figures included in the 11 canvases are children.
In this landscape the folly creates the illusion of a threshold, but it is just a framing device to convey the fundamental conundrum of the Garden of Eden.
For man, to behold the world is to reduce or even destroy it, perhaps because it is otherwise too frightening, too empty of significance, and simultaneously too full of detail to comprehend. The phrase 'Et in Arcadia ego' resonates in this landscape because one is always aware that annihilation is present even in Arcadia.
Everywhere it is as if something is on the tip of your tongue. You may sit for a long time and still not know what it is. In the meantime, there is consolation in beauty.
Poynton was born in 1970 in Durban and her youth was spent between South Africa, Britain, Swaziland and the United States. She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, USA, from 1987 to 1989; since then she has lived and worked in Cape Town.
Her most recent solo exhibition took place at the KZNSA Gallery in Durban in 2010; in 2009 her work was the subject of a solo exhibition, with an accompanying monograph, at the Savannah College of Art and Design's galleries in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
She has held solo exhibitions at Michael Stevenson since 2003. In 2012, she held her first solo exhibition at Stevenson Johannesburg
Click here to read the transcript of a talk by Deborah Poynton at Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, on 4 March 2011.
There is a certain futility to realist painting. The more real you try to make it, the more you feel its lack of reality.
In this 11 panel installation, which encompasses a room, there is the illusion of a space beyond the walls of the gallery.
The scale is grand, and it seems to be making a grand claim, that labour and skill will lead to meaning and perfection. But there is no resolution here. The unrelenting lack of horizon, the repetitive plant matter in dark shades of green, the obsessive detail leading the eye to more obsessive detail, mean that you go can only go round and round and never out.
You are turned back on yourself. What you see, is what is in you. The more you know, the less you see, because of all the noise in your head. Beauty seems to bestow a caress on you, but leaves an ache behind, because you can never possess it. The gallery space is your head, the walls are your skull, the paintings are your closed eyelids. Beyond them is just empty space.
Art is collusion, whether it’s the most abstract single line, or the most baroque nude, a brick on the floor, a clever concept, or an event. Realist painting, printed matter, screens: all images require the same collusion between one person and another. But the two never meet. Images mediate the world between people, and give us the illusion of connection. Because as children we once experienced the bliss of being in the world, of connectedness, we will always crave this illusion.
Arcadia is a folly, a folie-à-deux, both literally and figuratively. We stand in the folly looking out at an unattainable, rather decayed paradise, and try to make something of it.
Please can I also direct you to our website to view more on Deborah: