1989 by Peter Clossick
Helen Seated recalls quiet paintings of women captured in a moment of their own – the soft eye of Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Toilette (postcard 18), Picasso’s elongated figure in Woman Ironing (postcard 109). All these paintings manipulate their artistic style to reinforce the act of ‘looking in’, of watching a figure unaware. Paint and brushstrokes reaffirm the canvas’s space as the figure’s own; we are aware of our looking into an harmonious atmosphere created between a figure and its surrounding. As blue played throughout both Picasso’s and Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings, the strength of blue and black is scattered throughout Clossick’s. There is a collective darkness and intensity to colour that runs throughout Clossick’s composition; the colour is so richly thick, the image is given a density that draws the viewer’s eye in. Even the soft fleshy tones that unmistakably mark Helen’s long and curved limbs are tinged with a blue and greyish hue, casting the light of the room upon her. The same strokes that elongate these long limbs, drawing the body down and round as Picasso emphasised his figure’s body, are used to draw the activity about the room towards Helen herself. Red etches slowly towards her from the right, falling in long but gentle shards, green seems to frame her angular face either side of her head, while blue and black cross over each other symphonically behind her. The shapes and angles created by brush strokes seem to frame the central figure, encouraged by the darkness the floor and background fades to. Though darkly articulated, the image is not one of uncomfortable feeling; Helen’s face, like her pose, is calm, and there is something absorbing about the dark serenity of this painting.