I went last week to see an exhibition of recent work by the artist Ann Westley who lives and works in Cutar, the village where we live. If you happen to be touring the Axarquia during the coming month, it will be well worth your time to drop into the gallery at the town hall, Velez-Malaga, where she is exhibiting her work.
The exhibition consists of watercolours, prints, illustrations and acrylics.
The acrylics each catch a moment in which the subject and the setting resonate with, and transform each other. For example in the picture “The girl above the rooftops”, her big boots hardly touch the tiles of the cottage roof as she stands suspended above the rooftop, naked and weightless, light as the air and of the air. “The Woman of the fountain”, or “The woman of the source” is set in the still water of cavernous pink baths. The woman’s limbs and the water are exactly the same tone and colour. Her swollen belly, the bird gazing at her from the tip of her finger and her bright robes show her absolutely still, but pregnant with life.
The painting “The Canary woman” was perceptively translated by Google as “The woman in the Canary”, which I like. In this picture we catch the amazed face of a heavily bodied woman as she outwardly sprouts wings and inwardly goes to pieces, presumably in song, against a canary yellow oblong set against sky.
The picture that moved many locals was “Jessica in her Shop” (above). The shop closed a few weeks ago. Like the school and the bar it was a lynch pin of village life and is much missed. This picture is now all that remains of it. The shop is not, however, depicted as it was – gloomy, with provisions piled against the shelves and smelling faintly of mice. Instead it’s transformed into a glorious cornucopia, bursting with good things and stuffed with life. It is endowed with the energy of the woman who runs it and brought to life by her optimism. There are many small stories woven in the detail of the picture, it reminds me of a Stanley Spencer resurrection. This vigour, strength and confidence is typical of an exhibition that radiates positive energy and never slips into sentimentality.
“Fuego” (above) is the painting that I like best of all. Three girls hold hands in a cornfield, their hair the colour of the corn. At the bottom is revealed the gaping black void and a staircase only just attached to the world above. The central figure is not climbing up the steps, she rather ”arises”, her ankles together as she floats weightlessly back into the world, guided by two handmaids, their bare feet firmly on the ground. This is Persephone released from Hell and from the arms of Hades. It is the moment when she returns to the world and Demeter her mother permits the harvest once more. So the field is blown by the wind into a raging inferno of corn, magically parted for the goddess in the way that the red sea parted for Moses. It is a very pagan picture. In the catalogue Westley, describing her process, talks of a little patch of yellowing weeds through which the neighbours have trod a track. The myth began to take shape as she worked upon this scene, visible from her kitchen window. It is the process of a true artist – a universal theme arising out of work upon an ordinary moment of everyday life. And the process is innocent. It allows a theme to arise rather than trying to force and control the subject matter. At the same time it does what an artist ought to do for her community – transforming everyday moments into universal themes.
I have posted the catalogue at the bottom of this log so you can appreciate the range and quality of the exhibition. Westley is less well-known than she should be because she has cloistered herself in our little village. At €300 – €500 for major pieces of work, the artist is selling herself at a price well worth investing in, even at this time of “crisis”.