Pat Paxson

Pat Paxson’s paintings take a fresh look at the depiction of the figure, particularly the depiction of the figure in uncertain space. They reflect her interest in particular ideas from 20th century art and theory, relating to perception and unconscious processes.

Her paintings contain only very oblique reference to the elements of figure, ground and perspective that have been predominant in conventional Western Art, whether figurative or abstract.

Background colour is conceived as a surface on which to locate figures, rather than a ‘ground’ within which figurative elements are depicted. Matisse describes as ‘decorative’ the use of colour in accordance with compositional requirements rather than for the purpose of describing particular objects. Here Paxson’s work pursues the idea of ‘decorative colour’ to a logical conclusion identifying it purely with the surface of the canvas.

Figures emerge out of marks laid down on the surface of the canvas in a process which creates a kind of palimpsest of mark and erasure, the basis for further marks and erasures. The marks are not planned or descriptive in any way. Energistic and automatic, they are driven from the back of the mind, and do not draw on any conventional mode of figuration or signification whose meanings are accessible by mental operations of a kind akin to the ‘linguistic’. They are the outcome of intuitive impulse rather than of conscious intention and determination. Nevertheless, these paintings are not abstract, since figures do appear as the process of mark-making continues, and in some cases they are allowed, so to speak, to remain visible and recognisable as such.