Deenagh Miller is as familiar with looking at images from art history as she is with modern images. Her studies range from Ancient Greece up until modern day and have predominantly focused on aesthetics rather than politics. She is aware when going to see paintings by the Old Masters, how many other people have also viewed the works; standing respectfully in front of them, knowing they are important and experiencing something powerful from them, but maybe not quite understanding all they are portraying. The works broach such topics as mythology, history, religion, astrology, philosophy, mathematics etc in varying degrees; and yet human figures and storytelling often dominate the central space of the paintings. These subjects are timeless and Deenagh is interested in the relevance of the associated imagery and narratives and combining these with modern imagery. Her observations of artworks take her eye to the smaller details in the background or edges: a dog or a servant or a dwarf or a liaison on a balcony; subplots to the main subject matter. She feels we are fortunate to have access to so many important artworks and is in awe of what artists throughout history have achieved, admiring their knowledge, skill, and the techniques employed.
Although she has read more history books than catalogues, she began the drawings in this exhibition in September 2018 following a chance opening of a catalogue of paintings by Veronese. The possibility came to her of using frameworks similar to the arched structures she saw in some of the frescoes as a starting point for her own drawings. Into these, she brings a variety of different imagery including plants, animals, ballet, jazz and contemporary dance, elements of artworks throughout history by artists such as Poussin, Titian, Sebastiano del Piombo, Michelangelo and many others to create a playful composition with serious intent.
She uses Indian ink with a dip pen and allows the process to flow almost like automatic writing as her hand, eye and brain coordinate in the drawing method. If blobs of ink occur, she incorporates these into her drawing. She finds that trying to do preparatory drawings or to plan the whole composition before she starts doesn’t work – it needs to be spontaneous. She reaches within herself, perhaps to inner voices sometimes. We all take in vast amounts of information during our daily lives and we share similar human traits which not everyone is able to tap into or articulate for themselves, but which artists can communicate through visual creations, using their natural and learnt skills and knowledge. It is an admirable creative process, and not always an easy one.
Deenagh’s drawings grow from where she starts them and only when they are near completion will she realise what they are about as complete entities. Her process has to do with creating some sort of order from chaos, and yet retaining a complexity and mystery which viewers can explore and bring their own thoughts, imagination and interpretations to. Her work is for general consumption – she wants it to be accessible to a wide audience. She hopes to communicate her love of images throughout the centuries by bringing them together in her drawings.
Elsbeth Buff draws nightly and there are several of her many sketchbooks to look through in this exhibition. She is well travelled and has led an adventurous life with great experience to bring to her drawings and paintings. Although her art is perhaps seemingly childlike, she has developed a sophisticated visual language with which she spontaneously expresses a multitude of observations and emotions; often very succinctly. Her need to draw and paint is pure and from within herself. Once she has put down on paper or canvas that which she wants to 'say', that's it, done. People ask her why she does it; what it all means...there may be ways of trying to approach explanations in words, but the meanings are really in the artworks themselves. She is interested, aware and porous to life, but doesn't let it burden her - she likes to have fun. Her need to draw is not to impress or emulate or please or influence others necessarily; and the work is honest, forthright and unhampered as a result. You can find great humour, arguments, fear, madness, contemplations on religion, death (babies going to heaven), beauty of nature and angels. There are also lines or marks and exuberance of colour which have no recognisable form but belong in the works just because there some things out there and in our heads and hearts which have no images or words we can employ to describe them but are still part of life and need to be part of Elsbeth's artwork too.