Wednesday, 21 January 2009

On Maria Speyer

For almost a month I've been looking at one of Maria Speyer's sketchy, intense, almost lifesize drawings on my lounge wall, and my fascination has increased, become all consuming.  Works of art become more than images when the scale and te
xture of the physical object is present, Speyer takes an intimate form, the drawing, and expands it.  The bodies are just less than human size and all the more human for it.

Speyer's line is loose and fluid, the figures sinuous, the charcoal almost trembling with intensity.  The most important technique she uses, the heart of this collection , is the building up and accumulation of graphite at the points of the greatest emotional focus, the darkness on fine textured paper becomes a metaphor for thought and communication.  Where a hand hangs in the air trying to capture a thought or two lovers press together our eyes are drawn to the blackness, the seriousness of thought.  The pictures are eloquent in their silence, the vast proportion of the surface untouched.  They are rich with the power of restraint eschewing all unnecessary effect, in doing so their very point becomes stronger.

I'm reminded of Frank Auerbach's kinetic intensity brought together with Giacometti's fluidity.  Speyer's figures achieve a kind of tensile grace through focussing on pressure points rather than every plane and surface.  The overall effect is that a lightness of touch gives an incredible corporeality to the figures, their physicality heightening their emotional resonance.

I love Speyer's art because, whilst it is ostensibly non-narrative, it hints at hidden cause and effect, the absence of the other makes us move in toward the work, it forces us to consider and empathise.  It feels as if Speyer is searching for something essential, her figures are stripped back, hairless, perhaps even skinless, she is using drawing to find what makes us human and that's a very fine aspiration.

After a month we've found the effect of the work on our wall almost meditative, spending time before it has become part of our days, I do hope Maria Speyer continues to create extraordinary work like the 'Negotiations' series, we all deserve to share in her search.

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