Painted love letters: the nostalgic work of Naomi Frears

“There are two kinds of lost in painting - happy and unhappy. I am mostly happy lost in that I don't always know where I'm going with work but that's good.” This is Naomi Frears’s declaration when describing her process of painting. After three years of collaboration and ahead of her second solo show at the Beaux-Arts London, St Ives-based contemporary artist Naomi Frears will showcase over 25 new works in an exhibition running from 24 October to 30 November 2019.

Even if Naomi Frears admits printmaking to be the most interesting and challenging medium “to be wrestling with forever”, she uses a wide range of materials such as oil on canvas, acrylic on wood, drypoint on linen and monoprinting to highlight different enigmatic human forms. Those forms simultaneously confront the viewer and appear lost in their own worlds. The vast space gives no indication of any concrete context but possesses a certain depth that pulls the viewer in. The artist explains that “Any figures in my work have to feel right as does the space or place around them. Each work is different and so how a figure stands or sits and whether they're fully present or only partially there is decided during the making of the work.” So, her pieces are part of a never-ending process of creation and re-creation.

Both a visual artist and filmmaker, she is based in the Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, previously occupied by the famous artist, Frances Bacon. St Ives is associated with many great artists of the 20th Century including Barbara Nicholson, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Roger Hilton and the Four Giants of British Modernism. Indeed Naomi Frears’ solo exhibition comes right after the celebrated retrospective which featured paintings of four pioneers of British Abstract art: Terry Frost, Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon and William Scott.

  

When asked about the subjects of her paintings, she adds “The figures come from various sources - some are combinations of drawings and for others, the starting point can be a family photograph or an advert from an old magazine. They always change so much though as I work with them gradually changing everything.” Continuously re-worked, each painting can take Frears years to complete as she uses an editing process similar to that of film, framing, moving, removing and introducing new elements with paint. As a result, the painting often has shadows or ghosts of previous ideas, figures, and structures visible within the painting. 

“Rightness is, I suppose, balance although sometimes I want work not to feel too balanced.”

Naomi Frears sometimes also describes her works as love letters, though she is not always sure to whom they are addressed. Upon this new solo exhibition, Naomi Frears is also working on a future video project “All Going Nowhere Together”. A video made in collaboration with a DJ. The project had Naomi Frears taking control of an FM radio station for a day. As she played the DJ’s tracks to 40 cars on the radio, they performed a simple choreography. The video was filmed in Exeter and will be shown there in Spring 2020. ■

Words by Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle

Photos provided by artist

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