Art made by women is gaining momentum at the moment, due to awareness over various levels of abuse in power and inequalities. While some will rightly find this rather tokenistic and further fetishising women, in the contemporary art scene we are finding that women and non-binary folk are being offered new platforms to highlight their voices and stories. Given the art historical canon, this is very exciting indeed for the contemporary viewer and follower of the art scene, and Mary Ramsden's solo show ‘Couples Therapy' at Pilar Corrias Gallery is a fine example of a female artist contributing to the narrative.
As an aside, but an important one, it should be noted that not all female artists want their work to be viewed as ‘female art' or the like, however upon viewing the content of the exhibition, it is easy to view the work in this way. The gallery has omitted a traditional press release for the show in favour of a highly insightful interview between Ramsden and writer Isobel Harbison, in which the artist identifies the painter's ability to codify relationships into a visual language, placing emphasis on the end product rather than the process of painting. The show is comprised of three series of works which come together to form ‘Couples Therapy', and each is worthy of the viewer's attention in differing ways.
Although undoubtedly difficult to document by photography due to their reflective surfaces, the first series ‘We Are Volcanoes' is stunning and arresting, comprised of black oil on black board. Using expressionist gestures on an otherwise smooth board background, raw visuals combined with the violent terminology of the series' title evokes a sinister yet mysteriously muted response to personal turmoil. The second collection is not its own body of work in the same sense as ‘We Are Volcanoes', in that they are all separately titled, yet their comparatively small sizes posit them as concentrated, angry and urgent paintings.
Perhaps the most compelling works of the show are the largest; Pilar Corrias' pristine white gallery space acts as a binary against the bold palettes and sweeping marks, thus disrupting the otherwise ambience. With the use of a heart motif in the works, these paintings feel like they are influenced largely by not only pop culture and art history but also automatic, frantic emotion. Suddenly the viewer is able to understand Ramsden's intentions beyond the mere aesthetic level of her other works; charged painting processes lead to obscured and fragmented heart symbols, fostering mutual relationships between artist, subject and viewer which linger as decoratively appealing with an added punch.
Words by Issey Scott
Mary Ramsden: Couples Therapy at Pilar Corrias, London, until 15 December 2017