Never to bid good-bye
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.
From The Going by Thomas Hardy
Not long after I visited Audrey Grant’s studio in Edinburgh, I was on a train with the luxury of having some space to read. The book was Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson’s memoir about the real story behind her adoption as opposed to the fictionalised version in her acclaimed 1985 novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
At one point in this honest and brave book, Winterson quotes the above verse by Thomas Hardy and says that for her, ‘the poem finds the word that finds the feeling.’
I had been scratching around in my head for days to articulate how Audrey Grant’s paintings affected me; for affect me, they do.
These solitary almost sexless figures on a scraped back industrial background with smatters of colour appearing like chinks in armour, are possessed of an unsettling yet magnetic energy.
They find the image that finds the feeling.
When Audrey talks about the paintings, it is as though she is channeling a pulse of energy to make the image happen. With one painting, she told me, as she made it, she was trying to allow two figures to inhabit the four sides of the canvas, but some greater force kept pulling it back to just a single figure.
There is always something trying to emerge in her paintings in between flashes of intense colour or scrapings of text.
I get a very strong feeling that nothing is left to chance in an Audrey Grant painting. They are masterful in their command of composition and paint, but it takes courage to let your head guide your hand in the way that she does when she creates an artwork.
Courage and experience of drawing, drawing, drawing on life with an intense physicality.
I remember seeing her work in The Union Gallery two years ago for the first time and being immediately struck by the way in which I felt I knew the figure. It was an oddly comforting sensation.
In the same way that when you people-watch on a train or in a cafe, and wonder about the inner lives of other people, you find yourself creating a world for her figures.
This new body of work feels to me to have taken a step forward from the work I saw two years ago. It is more measured and sure. It is though the figures are saying, ‘The rest of the world may be rushing around but I am taking my time.’
One of the things which Audrey said to me that stuck in my mind long after I left her studio was that even though even though she creates these figures, ‘she doesn't know who they are.’
This continuing curiosity about the act of creation and what lies beneath the surface marks her out as an artist to watch closely. She may even be watching you...
I wrote this foreword for the catalogue which accompanies the Audrey Grant solo show now wowing viewers at The Union Gallery in Edinburgh. Audrey Grant is just developing a name for herself as a painter and rightly so. This exhibition is almost a sell-out and if you see it, you will realise why.