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Narratives In Blossoming Vigor

Jess Xiaoyi Han
Kora Moya Rojo
Natalia Juncadella
Sally Jerome  
Sara Bonache Rios

27 Oct - 19 Nov, 2022

SENS Gallery | Narratives in Blossoming Vigor

Narratives in Blossoming Vigor draws on the relationship between the human form and nature in the work of five female contemporary painters. While the history of art’s entanglement with painting and the male gaze persists, these artists pursue the form taking historically female themes as their subject matter – flora, fauna, and the natural world. In so doing, their work becomes a vehicle for regrowth, identity and spirituality at a time when the symbol of botanical forms is quashed in lieu of technologically driven futures. 

Sara Bonache is case in point. With their similarity to the work of Georgia O’Keefe, Bonache’s pastel flower forms eschew all direct representation of the body yet continue to evoke it as an underlying presence. In Fugas (Leaks), the pistil of a flower oozes and drips sensuously and flesh-like. Water, a symbol of life, manifests in Bonache’s flowers as the essence of growth and transformation. Her paintings appear bodily, imbued with a sense of fecundity. 

Natalia Juncadella focuses her compositions on light and shadow, embracing her Colombian and Cuban roots through bright colour. Filtered through sharp sunlight, the organic and intricate silhouettes of plants hold court in her pictorial planes, often across the detailed ceramic tiles associated with households of hotter climates. The use of a flat 2D style reveals the artist’s background in graphic design, and lends the work a Hockney-esque dimension. These renderings of intimate spaces hone in on the calm and fleeting beauty of the everyday in an increasingly crisis enveloped world.  

Bulbous, blobby and fruit-inspired forms centre the work of Kora Moya-Rojo. Defined by an oval geometry, her paintings border on the darker side of the surreal, accentuating a psychological aspect. Elongated hands appear and vivid tones intensify the subject matter. In Shelter, an amorphous vase-like vessel holds a selection of drooping flowers, with a fish curling around its side. Here, we see a symbolic kinship with Bonache’s drips –Moya-Rojo also points to the origin of life in affinity, but in a rejuvenation from the toxicity that her deep tones of colour allude to. 

Conversely, the weight of Moya-Rojo’s works is offset by the light and sinuous nature of Jess Xiaoyi Han. Abstract in style, Xiaoyi Han employs pale colour and curlicue lines to introspect. Self-reflective, they are suggestive of mood, or the manifestation of a line of thought. As one peers close, seemingly recognisable forms take shape – a spherical pearl or bubble, a floating Lily pad, like vines attenuated lines twist and turn, water ripples outward. It is unclear if these manifestations levitate in space or are submerged in a lagoon. These indistinguishable forms are only suggested, not completely committed to canvas, allowing the viewer to project their own thoughts like a Rorschach Inkblot test. 

In contrast, Sally Jerome’s geometric style offers the viewer the control and self-containment that Xiaoyi Han denies, in her depictions of sprouting vegetation found in an urban environment. Inspired by the green life that finds its way to the surface of unexpected city spaces, Jerome paints with the similitude that one would build a house; methodically, brick upon brick. Emphasising the resilience of nature and its ability to flourish where one least expects, Jerome makes a case for the weed, the adaptable nature of plant life, and its parallels to human life in a post-pandemic world.  The paintings of Narratives in Blossoming Vigor seek to harness symbolic magnitude between vegetal forms and the picture planes they inspire in a spirited vision of the present. Eliciting a compelling beauty, these works depict a complex vision of nature and womanhood. Through a reification of form, they simultaneously reflect on the elusive, organic nature of paint itself.

Gwen burlington is an Irish writer and co-editor of art and literary journal Mirror Lamp Press.