On the Edge of Memory
Exhibition of new work by Elizabeth Haines
June 14th – July 12th 2003
These paintings are a new phase in the artist's journey away from her early style grounded in the tradition of the 19th century watercolour painters. A study of 20th century art and some eight years of research into the relationships between the different arts for her PhD thesis have gradually transformed Haines's work. The title of this show indicates her way of working: whereas earlier paintings were intentional as to composition and subject matter, now, the action of painting itself evokes memories from a store accumulated over some forty years of drawing from life. Traces of subject matter are incorporated in the picture, and these in turn have the capacity to evoke yet other images and associations from the viewer's own store of memories.
Meanwhile, the artist still draws from life - "Only when I come to draw do I see what I saw before I started drawing - and it is even more miraculous than it was at first glance" - and some of her sketchbooks will also be on display in the Queen's Hall.
Caroline Juler writes:
The latest collection of paintings by Pembrokeshire-based Elizabeth Haines contains some of her boldest, wildest work to date. Painters in this county, and west Wales in general, are to some extent dogged by their reputation as landscapists, as though the genre were easier, more complacent and more comfortable than, say, those who confront the consequences of war in Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and more recently, Iraq. But Ms Haines is one of the many distinguished landscape artists in this area who cannot be categorised in this way. These pictures, done predominantly in red, slate blue and ochre, and showing wheeling birds, scarified trees, storm-torn hillsides and moody harbours, show a passion for the human condition which is entirely relevant to today’s world. The subjects are local but the sentiments behind them are not. These are unashamedly affective landscapes in which the scars of human cruelty are thrown back at us. Ms Haines has great facility as a draughtswoman and worked as an illustrator for many years. Earlier paintings, and the watercolour sketches she makes as notes, have grown from conventional beginnings, giving the mistaken impression that she is a painter of pretty rather than deep-thinking pictures. Holding out for deeper truths is a painful process. “Even now, I have to struggle against the desire to tell stories”, she says. But every painting has to work on its own as a formal composition, in which colour, rhythm, association and mood stand by themselves. Otherwise she does not move forwards, and nor can we.
There are patterns in some of her painting that show how much at home she is with early 20th century modernism. If there is comfort in Elizabeth Haines’s work, it is of an intellectualised, abstract variety. And, paradoxically, she makes what she does look easy. The flowing rhythms anaesthetise us as they make us more aware. She spins them across her surfaces like a boy skimming stones on the surface of the sea.
Far-fetched as it might seem, Elizabeth Haines stands close in spirit to Picasso, not far from Géricault, and shoulder to shoulder with Tracey Emin. She has studied philosophy, and for her doctorate she examined the relationships between music, literature and visual art. She can quote Thomas Aquinas and Derrida (a philosopher whose stupefying impenetrability she has even dared poke fun at, endearing herself to this writer for one). In fact, Elizabeth Haines will not behave, and for that, her moody truthfulness, her explicit anguish and her refusal to be satisfied with second-rate ideas, we should all be thankful.
For more information,
contact Elizabeth Haines herself
or the Queen's Hall: