Virginia Bodman








Paintings from this series were shown at:

Virginia Bodman Paintings, 12.9.2009 - 17.10.2009, BayArt, Cardiff

This work is a further investigation into the absence of the feminine in the landscape and originated in the body of work shown and published as Home Ground, 2005-10: Invisibility and displacement of the feminine in the landscape was initially considered through the use of photo-collage, thus the elision of landscape imagery from still photographs and video stills is made possible, (also combining high and low grade imagery), and of standing in and moving through the landscape. Historic and contemporary images of women, drawn from Manet paintings and magazine advertising were inveigled into these composite landscapes. The paintings based on the photo-collages often use a low-key, restricted palette, reflecting their monochromatic starting points. Through a subversion of traditional approaches to painting, these iconic images, (Lola de Valence, Twiggy etc.) are rendered almost undetectable in their new landscape contexts.


This review first appeared in The Western Mail 02.10.09

Darryl Corner: Virginia Bodman at BayArt, Bute Street, Cardiff Bay  
Virginia Bodman’s paintings have been described as “gendered“, they’re most definitely feminine; the soft palette of pinks, yellows and pastels, the use of pattern and the inclusion of domestic objects and themes being the most obvious point of reference. 
There’s certainly a seductive lushness to many of her canvases. In “Picnic” the dappled light under the shade of trees is rendered in soft monochrome reds but it‘s the extravagant collection of tempting cream cakes laid out in the foreground that grab the eye. Whilst the background is muted and hazy the cakes are offered in full colour, in paint so thick it could be real cream. 
The way she varies the weight of her paint throughout this set of work is interesting. Sometimes it is so thick it goes beyond impasto and into a kind of relief sculpting of objects. For instance in “Somewhere 2006-09” swirling bouquets of pinks and reds drift across the surface. Great gobs of colour swirl up from the canvas and almost sculpt the flower-like forms. 
Bodman revels in the sheer sensual pleasure of it all; three red jewels of glass sit at the painting’s centre embedded in a nest of pigment. Sometimes you feel like the colour isn’t so much painted on as applied with an icing bag. 
Bodman’s work is certainly decorative. Unfortunately it’s a term that is often used in a dismissive way these days. At times her work has the feel of printed fabric just waiting to be cut up and made into something elegantly stylish. The painting “Social Climbing” not only looks like some kind of funky printed material but it depicts two dresses opposing each other across the canvas – each the negative of the other – like gunfighters. It’s high noon at the tea dance and fashion is a battlefield. 
Domestic patterns appear in “Spring”, at first glance it could be light spilling through chintzy curtains picking out the oversized roses. It’s impressionistic, in the popular sense, it’s all light and mood but Bodman always knows when to pull back from too much lushness. She always manages to subvert the prettiness of her work. In the case of “Spring” look closer and the surface is peppered with leaf litter – a reminder of autumn to come. 
Many of Bodman’s paintings depict figures in landscape. Usually a single figure, unmistakeably female, even if it’s just the silhouette that we recognise. But if it is a landscape then it’s a well tended garden rather than a wild, windswept hillside. Bodman’s world is romantic but it’s domesticated. 
There’s often a focus on small, personal artefacts that take on greater significance. In “Some Things That Were Left” we’re offered a collection of personal belongings; a dress, jewellery. Simple, everyday items that take on the weight of memory. 
Bodman steers a course between figurative and abstract but it’s not the kind of abstraction where the painting process itself creates the composition, it’s more controlled than that. And whilst her paint is always free flowing and gestural it never lapses into the well worn macho clichés of action painting. 
Underneath most of her surfaces you can detect pencil strokes so you always get the feeling that the structure is well prepared beforehand. Like great domestic activities cooking, or perhaps sewing, preparation is vital, control is essential whatever flourishes are later overlaid. 

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