Lucy Jane Turpin | Che Bello
Duo Exhibition at Kalashnikovv Gallery, Johannesburg
14.04.20 – 20.05.20
Text by Natasha Norman
An awareness of feeling (mind-body) and place (life-world) has been at the heart of Lucy Jane Turpin’s practice as an artist for some time. Forced into isolation at the heart of the European COVID-19 disaster in Milan, Italy, Turpin’s life-world has seen the closure of public spaces and the eventual lockdown of her life at the Viafarini Artist Residency to an apartment. Marooned, as such, she writes to us through colour and paint on linen. The works reach us online only, at this point. They remain resolutely haptic as real-time explorations of her creative impulse that flows generatively from the circulatory connection of place, body, mind and materials.
For Turpin, the act of painting is exploratory. It is a medium she has only recently begun grappling with in order to enable her to communicate through colour. As her artist statement attests, colour is associative, our perception of hue and tone has deep emotional and experiential resonances. Whatever its function in our earliest evolution as humans, colour continues to denote danger, calm, abundance or depletion. To communicate in colour taps into pre-verbal and deeply personal associations within each viewer. Coupled with form and medium, Turpin’s colour texts are complex signifiers of the artist’s recognition of self. Personal imaginings, contemporary experiences or memories contribute to the multiplicity of a self-informed by culture, place and feeling.
The phrase Che Bello, is deeply rooted in Italian cuture. Directly translated it means, ‘how beautiful’ but its use is more about the Italian cultural propensity to exclaim at the beautiful in life with meaningful emotion – the Italian propensity to take passionate delight in the indescribable feelings that a beautiful person, object or experience can evoke. To title these works such is an act of resolute hope for the artist who writes her colours from Italy’s darkest COVID-19 hour.
This subtext of hope is evident too in the artist’s application and creative process of painting. Turpin describes paint as a living element in her creative process, as a medium that moves and speaks, describing dimension and also remaining mute. As an artist, her practice liberates her medium, enabling her discovery of images to be a generative and empathetic act between her mind-body and the paint itself.
She describes the material substrate of her canvases as ‘skin’. Her marks in oil paint sometimes stain this skin as seen in her small-scale studies. In other works they cover or veil the linen, impasto-like in a Fauvist-style application that shatters into cascading forms of individual marks in other works, reminding a viewer about the atomic or accumulative nature of forms. Throughout Che Bello there appears to be a vibrant tension between cohesion and fragmentation, highlighting the fragility of structure.
COVID-19 has ushered in a time of heightened awareness. As a human race we have been forced to become aware of our bodies, our breath and our surroundings. Circulatory and exploratory, the works in Che Bello reflect this current world situation through the artist as one that is unknown but generative.
Exhibition catalogue is available for view here.