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PAINTINGS 1980 - 1990
ANNE MADDEN: INTRODUCTION
S. B. Kennedy
POMPEII & THE GARDEN SERIES
There now followed a series of pictures taking as their subject matter the theme of Pompeii, the Roman city destroyed in 79 AD. Madden's attention had been focused on Pompeii by a postcard of a wall painting from the city; it also suggested itself to her as a symbol of the ever-present possibility of death or sudden destruction. The architectural framework characteristic of many of the frescoes preserved at Pompeii struck a chord with her own compositional approach at the time so that it is not surprising that the paintings such as Traces of Pompeii, 1984-85, Opening with Figures, 1985 (University College Dublin), and Antigon and Polynices, 1985 (GPA Group Plc, Ireland), with their strict architectural grid should have emerged. Her mood in these works is lighter, almost playful in the latter, her colours bold reds, yellows and violets. Each of these compositions shows figure as if frozen in time, a reminder of the fate of the ancient city and of those who lived in it. In its classical tale of defiance in the face of adversity, of the ultimate triumph of the human spirit, however, Antigone and Polynices is a pointer to future developments.
As a metaphor Madden now developed the image of a garden, with open and enclosed spaces, light patches and shadows. Non-contextual or referential, as in Le Jardin, 1988 (Ulster Museum), the resultant images with their rich verdancy, pathways leading this way and that and with occasional glimpses of sunlight, as for example in Chemins Eclairés, also of 1988, are ambiguous for despite appearances these pictures are charged with questions of choice and responsibility. As individuals we shape the society we live in, we determine our reactions to others. This psychological element is also reflected in her Pompeiian pictures, for Pompeii was a natural disaster; man was powerless in the face of it. The tragedy of Pompeii was in a sense reflected in the artist's own life at the time for in 1984 she suffered the loss of her brother who died accidentally. This personal loss caused her to retreat into a 'dark room' and for a long time she was unable to work. Thus the paths of the Jardin pictures, which came immediately after this period of trauma, with their occasional rays of light and bright colours also symbolize her recovery: 'These works seek a way back to painting, to the studio, to light and enlightenment after a long darkness'. In subsequent compositions, especially the Source and Sea-change pictures of 1989 and the triumphant Vessels of Light II, 1990, we have a record of her journey. That journey was to provide the subject matter for her most recent work, which is an allegory for freedom.