Honey Well: Sheila Pomeroy

3 - 31 March 2013

Using portraiture as a means of expression, painting with a distinctive sig- nature and sincerity, her paintings explore feelings of loss - without despair, of childhood and unfulfilled expectations, of family and their tensions and conflicts.

Sheila’s beautifully crafted paintings combine multiple layers of oil and glaze in a classic technique, giving her work a tonal depth and opulent texture. The studied intensity of her figures invokes the mas- ters of the early renaissance, while the interplay between light and shadow, between the ethereal and the temporal draws on the genius of Carravaggio and Goya. Motivated by personal experience, Sheila explores universal themes of motherhood, love and loss, pain and bereavement, never hesitating to lay bare raw emotion.

The recipient of various awards including the Arnotts Portrait competition in 1987 and 1999 and the RHA Portrait Prize in 2000. This is her fourth solo exhibition.

Artist’s Statement

I find writing about my work to be a stressful task, and painting to be only slightly less so. A writer is never required to paint a statement.

I’ve got few theories or philosophies about art, and certainly none of my own, so perhaps it will be enough if I start by explaining the method I use to find what is for me a satisfactory, authentic image. I have learned to wait, not to chase off the ragged fragment of a dream, or a thought, or a feeling.

I don’t try to dictate, or analyse. I sift, sift, and sift through my horde of photos, poems, songs, titles, scraps, words, and cuttings. Then I do it again. Gradu- ally, small associations and links are made. From this repetitious, tedious but mesmerising process, an im- age is, just occasionally, distilled.

It has but rarely anything at all to do with the original spark – I like that. But of course, as a writer may only ever have one or two stories, so too does an artist.

I am interested in Freud and Jung’s work on the collec- tive unconscious and dreams. A jumbled mix of the things that fascinate me I use as props in my work.

Myths, rituals, abandoned places, haunted places, sacred spaces, cillins, Chinese opera, graveyards, Noh plays, ancient Egypt, children, birds, cenotes, tsantsa, bog bodies, Pre-Columbian civilizations, sacrificial ritu- als, deep and stagnant water, trapped insects in amber, fossils, Tar pits, things that lurk beneath the surface, jujus, totems, famine graves, deformities, conjoined twins. I could go on.

Often, and perhaps thankfully, in my flight from story, these props are lost.

The actual painting is a progression from the sifting. I build thin layers of paint, and when a layer is dried, I scrape and sand the surface, and then paint another layer. Sometimes the image is destroyed. There may be twenty layers. It is a dispiriting and often boring journey, but there is a letting-go, a meditating within this process. I begin to understand this contains the essence of why I need to paint.

It is always a surprise to me when the painting emerg- es – then it becomes a matter of craft.

The work in this exhibition is slightly different from previous work, as it deals mostly with recent events. Perhaps I am running out of memories.

Clearly, some of the paintings in this exhibition are a lament, and a farewell ( Bective Fragment’). Clearly, some of the paintings are a lament, a farewell, and a merciless inventory (‘Leaving Hat’, ‘Totem’). And one or two are purely a merciless inventory.

Some of the paintings are angry, and veering peril- ously close to the polemic – like narrative, something I am attracted to, and repelled by, in equal measure.

About the denigration of the female I am, and will re- main, outraged and unapologetic (‘Song of The Fury’, ‘Caul’). But I can only deal with these larger issues by going from the general to the particular, by finding echoes in my own experience, by finding symbols.

I want to whisper, not shout. But I do want to be heard.

Sheila Pomeroy, 2013