Holly Draper and Amanda Patten

2015 Graduate MFA exhibition

Burren College of Art

‘The Shadow of Doubt’, this year graduate MFA exhibition at the Burren College of Art, presented the work of two painters, Holly Draper and Amanda Patten, marking the end of their two-year stay at the college. Draper’s work plays on the relationship between food and memory or memories of food. For the show she presented a series of paintings on square boards varying in size from 5 to 96 square inches (this last made up of sixteen boards). They were arranged over three walls of the Main Gallery space, in an irregular linear sequence that allowed space for each painting while suggesting a time-line in keeping with their chronological subject.[1]

Draper begins the work with a pencil drawing of food moments from her childhood, this drawing is then overlaid and pushed back through layers of acrylic paint. The vortex-like forms suggest both the alteration of food in the digestive system or that of memories through time. Sudden vivid details of these buried memories do emerge occasionally – suction cups in Octopus, chopped off fingers in Tears – in a sort of Proust Madeleine’s effect; having short circuited the conscious narrative making’s mechanism. The repetitive square format and the bright colours bring to mind Polaroid pictures, a format that has given memories a generic form to many – something new generations might get an inkling of through the nostalgia-tinted Instagram application. Patten’s focus is on the representation of religious leaders of fundamental branches of Christianity. For the MFA show she presented a series of portraits in the Project Room and three full-length portraits in the Main Gallery space. Combining titles that have religious resonances – Doubting Thomas or Call Upon the Lord – with conventional portraiture she lined up a disturbing series of male figures. Based on photographic images, it is Baroque portraiture that they most directly evoke with their dark backgrounds and broad brushstrokes; their religious subjects would not be out of place in 17th century religious’ fervour either. Patten builds up flesh tones from a red ground that still shows at the contour of an eye or the fold of an ear, adding to a sense of unrest and suggest a barely concealed civility in these portraits. The figures may adopt the posture of authority, but their flesh rendered through concentrated brushstrokes is agitated, unsettled. Their authority is further undermined by their being represented naked: all power is gathered in their faces and the depiction of the chests and bodies appear loose and directionless, as if neglected, perhaps fittingly for spiritual leaders. ‘The Shadow of Doubt’ was a very painterly exhibition, which showed that however different Draper’s and Patten’s approach and subject are, they share a deep commitment to the expressiveness of their medium.

Michaële Cutaya 2015





The Shadow of Doubt

Food features in Holly Draper’s paintings. The eye is drawn to the textures, the abstractions, matter and form appear and disappear, entice and reject, causing a longing for the sensual pleasure of nourishment. In one passing moment what appeals may soon give way to decay and revulsion. Leaving the viewer in a state of duality.

The earthly carnal desires for food and flesh activating an awareness of detritus and matter – the symbol of mortality. Draper paints an undulating abstract memento mori of colour, form and texture, a reminder that our association with food also indicates the site of trauma, whether in excess or in scarcity, an imbalance – both politically and psychologically.

In Amanda Patten’s paintings the series of white bearded men, gaze blankly from the canvas, depicted in formal poses, their nakedness revealed, bulging stomachs overhang, reminiscent of the paintings of Lucien Freud, a reminder of the imperfection of human flesh and mortality. Perhaps the painter has unclothed them to rob them of an unwelcome patriarchal authority. Certainly, the male figures are far too fleshy and awkward to be symbols of sexual desire.

In the tradition of Freud’s figurative paintings we confront the mortality of the body through representations of skin and flesh which is well worn, marked and lived in. Skin acts as a boundaries between self and other, holding the bodily fluids in place.

between self and other which she suggests as the point at which the infant begins to separate from the maternal relationship and experience itself as an individual entity, as a being with subjective awareness. She writes that “the abject threatens life, it must be radically excluded from the place of the living subject, propelled away from the body and deposited on the other side of an imaginary border which separates the self from that which threatens the self ”. [1] Contemplating the paintings together I am reminded of both the inside and the outside of the body and what a fragile skin defines one from the other, how earthly and temporary are both the substance and flesh of foodstuffs and the body. 1) Creed, B. Horror And The Monstrous Feminine : An Imaginary

Abjection . London Routledge, 1993. Page 65.

Ruby Wallis, March, 2015

PhD researcher NCAD/GradCam, Dublin Photography theory lecturer – Griffith College Dublin

[1] Draper mentioned that she had initially thought of a grid-like arrangement but that Maeve Mulrennan, Galway Arts Centre’s art officer, who came to advise with the hanging, suggested the linear arrangement.











































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