Gallery Visit

posted under by Philip Howlett
"Examine a piece of work in terms of it's compostion" Angel Row Gallery - "Capitulation" by Louise Dalby - Oil and Graphite on Linen

Looking around the exhibition at Angel Row there were a few pieces that caught my eye. I wanted to choose a piece that I appreciated and that I enjoyed. What I chose was quite a dark painting by Louise Dalby which I found hidden away in the corner of the gallery in a small room. Not until after I left the gallery did I think that maybe it was placed there purposefully.

As you enter the room this painting is directly in front of you. Compared to a lot of the work on the show, I felt this really had a disturbing nature. The way the character stares at you from the top of canvas, almost as though he's looking down on you is quite discomforting. The painting is hung at eye level, as is common place in galleries for obvious reasons. The small child depicted is above you as a result, and this gives a dominating feel. He's also central to the painting, making him the focus of your attention. The background is plain and empty and it's very clear where you should be looking. Even the body is neglected, there aren't any arms or features, but you still understand it's a torso. The way the canvas has been used has obviously been considered too. There's very little visual confusion, the focal point is the face which is detailed and is probably the only part of the painting you could draw any information from.

The colours used give the painting it's mood and feeling. By keeping to a mainly monochrome palette it makes it quite brooding. The expression on the boys face I feel is fairly innocent in a way, but at the same time sad and soulless. To create all these feelings through such a simple painting is a real achievement. The brush strokes are also important to the composition. Within the torso especially there are some really expressive scratches and large sweeping brush strokes. These suggest to me some anger and tension, which compliments the expression of the face, while at the same time contrasting. When you look at the face you know something isn't quite right behind the facade, somethings lurking within this child. The way the face is painted is the complete opposite to this however. Small, barely distinguishable strokes creating a smooth, almost porcelain skin. On close inspection you see a lot of attention to detail and beauty. The background looks distressed, suggesting things about his environment. I think he's clearly unhappy, and everything points to this. The mute and dark colours, the mood, the brush strokes and most of all the expression. I really feel like a know I lot about his life just through this painting alone.

As I said earlier, the way the painting is presented is also critical. As in a lot of cases the gallery presents work against a white background. Nothing should be on the wall which is detracting from the actual piece. Putting the painting in the corner makes it appear quite lonely too, especially as it's in a small room, quite different to the other larger open spaces in the galley. I believe this artist is trying to say something about abuse to children, and the loneliness they feel. They have no one to talk to, and their feelings can end up hidden behind their innocent faces. The role the boy is given here makes him the dominant one for once, the one who people are scared of. It shows real consideration to all areas of composition and design.


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