PAINTER’S PAINTER by ANNIKA HARDING

 

Emma Beer is a painter’s painter. The formal qualities of her work are front and centre, in a tradition that harks back to Modernism. And like some infamous Modernist painters, Beer has a big personality. Her latest exhibition, Lashings of Ginger Beer, like her previous solo exhibition The Informalities of Shit Miracle, refers to a nickname she is sometimes called by, inextricably and unashamedly linking Emma Beer as Artist to her paintings. It’s really refreshing to see a woman doing this, as it’s something that is (and certainly has been) mostly engaged with by male artists. And before anyone accuses me (like former PM Julia Gillard) of ‘playing the gender card’, I’d like to draw your attention back to the problem as I’ve described it before, and remind you of the valuable work of CoUNTesses in Australia, and Guerilla Girls in the USA. Work that still needs to continue. I will say again and again that I think women artists in general need to have more confidence in themselves and their work. And- it sounds cheesy, but it’s true- to work on their ‘brand’, their public, professional persona. I don’t know if Emma Beer thinks about this, but regardless, it is working for her. Beer has presented a very bold and experimental body of work, building on the style of painting that she has been developing since art school. Her use of colour, texture, and layering has always been magnificent, but Lashings of Ginger Beer pushes all three to a new extreme. The colours she uses reverberate from deep black to intense colour right back to chalky white. Scraped, transparent streaks of paint and translucent linear brushstrokes give a sense of depth, while thickly smeared oil paint occasionally brings you back on top of the surface. Each layer, each colour, and each composition demands to be enjoyed, and it would be very hard not to give in. Jacqueline Chlanda puts it best in the exhibition catalogue- Beer’s paintings “take – and give – great joy in painting”. They become the medium for transmitting the painterly joy of Emma Beer to the viewer. They are not separate from, but rather an extension of the artist and that is a really powerful thing. Lashings of Ginger Beer continues at PhotoSpace Gallery at the ANU School of Art until the 14th. Weekends by appointment with the artist. You can see the works at Jas Hugonnet‘s online gallery but don’t miss the real thing.

- JULY, 2013.