Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff, 15th April to 9th May 2015
Sally Moore is a figurative artist whose work toys with allegory, makes the occasional foray into surrealism and more often than not, features herself as model or models. Her latest exhibition, Creature Comforts, marks a twenty-year partnership with the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff, where she has exhibited almost biannually since the mid ‘90s.
Of the eighteen paintings present, all but one follow a theme that discusses the contrasting pulls of relationships and the possible, probable claustrophobic dependency, versus freedom and independence that carries the risk of loneliness.
The artist, speaking two years ago in an interview elsewhere, confided that she lost her father while still a teen, followed by her mother in recent years. The current body of work comes from her usual emotional, exploratory angle where the artist places herself into situations that directly frighten, vex or challenge as a way of helping her to confront personal fears and anxieties, the interview went on to reveal.
Props and references furnish the content of most, if not all of the paintings, with the most common being fish – either stifled in their cramped, overcrowded goldfish bowl as an allusion to that claustrophobia – or as a plastic ‘stained glass’ window decoration between the inner and outer world. Domestic animals too, such as rabbit, mouse, cat and dog with a reappearance of the china dog from earlier work, and what seems to be an ornamental ostrich egg. Men feature in several pictures but are both an issue and a problem that needs cracking. I note with interest, that in two paintings, ‘This Charming Man’ (pictured above) and ‘Stargazers’, the illustrative spectre of a woman under sexual threat is emphasised by the representation of recognisable arts pieces – a painting and sculpture respectively – such as Titian’s, ‘The Rape of Lucretia’. Contrastingly, in ‘Handmaidens’, the malevolent, vengeful facial expression on the lead female would put fear into the heart of any man.
‘Beachcombers’ is poignant. Note the optimistic ‘Sally’ looking bright and alert having built a fairy tale sandcastle, contrasted with the older, world-worn version who is depressingly slumped, burdened with a jaded ambition that can only raise enough interest to build a tower of ever decreasing-sized pebbles.
Of the whole exhibition, one painting in particular stole my heart: ‘Rain Stops Play’ would most certainly have stolen my debit card too if it had not already been snapped up in a pre-sale. It shows the seconds after a cat inside a house has lost interest in the nice lady the other side of the glass who had been amusing it, because newly falling raindrops are far more interesting. Loneliness’ pain and need for this creature’s comfort expressed in the Sally character’s face is so clear to read, I welled up.
Would I be reading too much in to ‘All At Sea’ to suggest the collection of domestic items boxed up on a quayside and the piano floating away in the sea expresses the turmoil of a post-death house clearance, and that awful feeling of closing the family front door for the last time? Her dulled expression and the fly away scarf make it seem so.
Each of these superb paintings contains so much to fascinate and satisfy. For alluring, quizzical content as well as her sheer proficiency in draftsmanship and painting skill, Sally Moore is one of Wales’ foremost treasures in her chosen field, being an artist of exquisite talent. The exhibition Creature Comforts comes to you highly recommended.
See website http://www.artwales.com for opening times and further details