Kristin Headlam @ Charles Nodrum Gallery

Kristin Headlam MAYSunday, 19 June 2011

Kristin Headlam @ Charles Nodrum Gallery

Kristin Headlam’s current exhibition at the Charles Nodrum Gallery is perhaps one of the most honest shows I’ve seen of hers in years. For the better part of the last decade Headlam’s paintings were inspired by media photography. They gave the artist an opportunity to participate in issues affecting domestic and international affairs. With subtle manipulation of images she commented or critiqued the media, society, and governmental policies. Most importantly of all, she was able to experiment with new paints and pigments, reduce her colour palette to a monotone, and develop new painting techniques which became more fluid and unrestrained in the process. However, the locus of her identity during this period was internalised.

Kristin Headlam CHRISIn the current exhibition, Kristin once again concentrates on her own environment – her studio, her garden, her backyard, her pot plant, her Chris. She is seemingly picking up where she left off around 2000-2001, the last time she shared with the audience the intimacy of her space. Headlam revisits her previously tighter and controlled brushwork, though the fluidity of previous years is preserved towards the outer edges of the canvas.

However, the last body of work on this subject was flooded with sunlight; the backyard was dominated by bright green and golden plants, and the blossoming purple wisteria carefully edged its way along the fence line. In this exhibition by contrast her canvases are permeated by a subdued silvery atmosphere of winter’s afternoon. Everything is in a state of decay and disrepair. Fences are falling; the lattice is buckled; unruly wisteria branches snake their way around the garden; a little Roman head lies cracked and overturned; and even her favourite chair has a spring sticking out underneath, standing on the studio floor strewn with autumn leaves. The last time Kristin shared her studio environment with us, she showed herself – with an obvious nod to Velasquez – in the midst of creativity, engaged in an artistic process. Here by contrast her studio is empty, bathed in cold and impersonal neon light. Canvases are turned against the wall. The single canvas on the easel remains blank.

Kristin Headlam FEBRUARY

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s bon mot, every painting by an artist is a portrait of the artist. Headlam’s ubiquitous presence is conspicuous despite her physical absence from the canvasses. I left the gallery feeling that instead of seeing an exhibition of landscapes I have just seen an exhibition of the most intimately revealing self-portraits of an artist in the autumn of her life.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but full or partial use is welcome with proper acknowledgement. Where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

June 2011


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