There are some artists you feel are indispensable, essential; that’s how I feel about Séraphine Pick’s work. Her landscapes were the grey washed, colour daubed stuff of Winter dreams. In her work, pockets of deep time: that part of us which is animal, which follows the life cycle of an animal, which behaves as an animal in a flock or herd; but then that other part of us which is an individual, an ‘I’ wanting to be loved, wanting others, seeing ourselves in the mirror and wondering how others would see us if only we could reach the image of completion—a painter who always evoked, in some quite mysterious way, feelings from my adolescence—a sort of ‘gothic adolescence’; all of these are my feelings when I remember Pick’s earlier work. Really, she’s a visual poet.
So the brilliant “White Noise” show at The Dowse is a really a quite new direction for Pick. There is so much colour here—unbelievable heady pinks and reds—heady is the word: you feel the reel of intoxication; the whole show’s awash in intoxication, you can’t help feel out of it. These impressionistic well-oiled states of intoxication—so different from her earlier dreamscapes or, as I liked to think of them ‘imagined gardens’—are distinctly varied and this variation can be plotted on an axis of solitude and merged communal ecstasy. Heady rock stars zonk out in their own garden spaces and these are contrasted with the tight claustrophobic works of the ‘wankered’ series: nasty abject sacrifices of the twenty-something blottoed to the dark gods of social media. But it’s the large canvases which devour. The communal nakedness of ‘Group Hug’ and the dancing around the maypole—so much colour, like Indian hali, like a festival to dancing gods—has that edge of disquiet, that off-kilter sense that I am not quite getting what’s going on which I love in her work. There are mysteries, even in the Rugby Sevens, in our social behaviours which have irrational, possibly terrifying, dimensions which we chose to turn away from as they point to uncomfortable aspects of our ‘whiteness’—for perhaps our perfect white imagined bodies shall devour us all in a million likes and we shall have it; we shall have it all, for one golden moment.