by Melody Willis
18 AUGUST – 9 SEPTEMBER 2017
Clare Thackway's paintings use the suppleness of oil paint to rework the female figure as a form of communication. 'TIES' explores the diverse performances of womanhood: the presentation of youthful physical beauty, the grace and challenge of serving as mother or carer, the responsibilities of the working woman. The stretched poses of the figure suggest repeated movement, a muscle memory. Twisting fabric and the positioning of bodies echo a folding of these roles into one another over time. Human movement becomes a psychological semaphore and a non‑verbal translation of the push-pull flexibility required of women.
Each thin mark bounces light off the surface of the body, exposing luminous translucent skin. This prudent use of paint, knowing where it should fall in wedges of colour to give pulsing life to flesh, is contrasted against the modernity of the black and white stripe. Paint is scumbled and scratched back, dragging light across the surface of the skin, marking time.
In one painting the figure holds the fabric as a Spanish toreador assuming the stance of hide and reveal. In another, the female form is almost completely concealed, disappearing into an architectural surface suggesting a rippling column wrought from the black & white marble Duomo of Siena, Italy. The near to life scale of the works further conjures these architectural dimensions. Thackway's presentation of woman with hands to heart, head and eyes gently raised, is evocative of mother or Madonna, vulnerable yet resilient and passionate. In a related sequence Thackway focuses in on the expression of the hands variously clasped but in these intimate works the figure is disembodied not through fabric but the cut of shaped steel.
The fragmentation of the figure also links to the feminist Dada collage of Hannah Höch. The manipulation of the body in Thackway's work gently reveals the capacity for women to take on varied gender roles. The body is disguised and unveiled via the contrasting artifice of fabric and the steel cutouts. There is the dual motion of letting go and embracing the new. What falls away and what is maintained? These are not portraits but performative metaphors, intergenerational relationships as physical expression. The spaces described are dense and illusory, with the figure stretching and bending in the confines of the composition, bound and contained by the cropped edges.