Emma Beer’s paintings are made in a time where they are past the point of needing to assert form over subject. Rather they take – and give – great joy in painting. These most recent paintings are Lashings of Ginger Beer – a series of works that make up a dedicated and unified project by this inquisitive and restless painter. Beer provides herself with a limited range of strategies from a sometimes familiar, sometimes new, visual vernacular as a means for exploration.

A number of these paintings feature repetitious lines arranged in zigzags, a prominent feature from her Informalities of Shit Miracle 2011 and she likes yellow 2012 exhibitions. Whereas in 2011 these populated the foreground, stretching across the canvas, they are now almost entirely sent to the middle or background. Blocks of opaque colour, gauze-like paint and bold stripes work to obscure these emblematic markings in paintings like demond rock. For Beer, this systematic mark making was a way of slowing her painting down. Now, these marks work to set more expansive areas of paint in motion. Scratchy, rough-edged line and form demonstrate a certain disregard for finish, suggesting instead a quickness in process.

One of the most pleasurable qualities about the paintings in Lashings of Ginger Beer is their luminosity. Working into a pale coloured or white ground, Beer uses thin sheaths of paint and high key colours to accentuate brightness and light. Light, so often associated with space and grandeur in scale, is here captured within relatively small picture planes, at the limits of which much of the drama occurs. Beer uses the edge of her canvas to reveal layers of paintwork: in some paintings, like hike together and running for cover, the different elements seem to fan out from one another; in others, like rain down and stole the dead duck, the different layers crowd together at the brink. In either case, Beer highlights the perimeters of the canvas, thus intensifying the sense of light.

Looking, we can find possible bookends to this painting project. tomboy and tic/toc share a lot in formal composition. Both rely on a palette of blue, black, white, and grey, although tic/toc also has a shock of orange. Both set a large, opaque white rectangle above a pair of smaller squares. However, in tomboy Beer’s characteristic, in this case almost caricatured, zigzagging is painted on the white rectangle, making it the only painting in the exhibition to foreground these markings. In tic/toc the white rectangle is startlingly empty. In both works dynamism at the edge is central and the sensory experience of light is privileged. Yet, within these essential elements, tic/toc includes what presents as a blank canvas: an expanse of white, the suggestion of the next clean slate on which to make new travels in paint.


- JULY, 2013.