Sarinah Masukor reviews Catherine Clayton Smith: ‘Brimming’ in MeMO

Sarinah Masukor reviews Catherine Clayton Smith’s exhibition Brimming in MeMO

Catherine Clayton Smith’s Brimming is currently on show at Chalkhorse, the one-time artist-run space turned commercial gallery. It is a thoughtful, absorbing collection of new paintings. Following her riotously sensual 2020 show, After The Orgy, this exhibition expands Clayton Smith’s painterly language and gestures toward the transcendental. At times, her work shares a kinship with the pale washed canvases Agnes Martin made in the late 1990s. The layers of paint on large areas of ground have been rubbed back into the canvas, creating a dry, shimmering quality and the natural world seeps in as an abstraction. Another thread can be drawn between Clayton Smith and Amy Sillman—consider, for example, Sillman’s Southstreet (2021) or Dubstamp (7A Back) (2018). Both painters share a preoccupation with the language of the image and the moment when form slips into abstraction. They both resist the delineation of depth into a navigable arrangement (foreground, middle ground, background) while also avoiding the seduction of the flat plane. Instead, they shift depth around and through the surface of the painting.

Across the show the natural world, light, and the feeling of being in it and of seeing it hovers between representation and pure abstraction. Prey (2022) is awash with pale blues, blue-greys and grey-purples, with traces of pale pink and green underneath. Below a gentle grey curve on the left side of the canvas are two stronger dashes of bubble-gum blue, the blue’s artificial brightness rubbed back and softened with a base of warmer grey. A vibrant yellow-orange smear tumbles behind a wash of white as if caught in motion, falling off the canvas. In the top left corner a network of thin white lines gestures toward the harbour—the bridge, the opera house—moving over and under the soft smudges of purple, grey, blue and green. The morphing, mixing, dripping marks come together to create the impression of some undone landscape, felt rather than represented.


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