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PAINTINGS 1990 - 2000
ANNE MADDEN: INTRODUCTION
S. B. Kennedy
II. THE ODYSSEY & ICARUS SERIES
Madden works with her canvases laid flat on the studio floor, a reminder of the influence of her 1950's Abstract Expressionism. For her the business of painting is, literally, physical, the size of the composition determined by her height and the span of her reach. She applies paint swiftly and works on more than one canvas at a time. Space of Time, 1998 - 200, a composition comprising sixteen separate canvases (six of which are exhibited here) is perhaps the most compelling of her recent works. Here we confront surface and image, time and space. The mood of the canvases gradually darkens from the effulgent light of the early images (Space of Time I) to the dark shadows of the later ones (Space of Time VI).Two further pictures, (Icaus) Sun, 1998, and (Icarus) Zenith, 2000, document the extreme of Icarus's flight. Our reading of these is directed greatly by the animated brushwork and, in the latter canvas, by the enigmatic effect created by the gold paint. In the former composition everything dissipates in light. Hereafter Icarus can only fall, and this is duly recorded, first in (Icarus) Transformation, and (Icarus) Downfall II, both of 1997, and, later, in a group of works of which (Icarus) Plummet, 1997, and (Icarus) Downfall III, 2000, are good examples.
These last mentioned paintings are notable for the use of a strong ultramarine blue and the broken, abstracted imagery of (Icarus) Downfall III recalls Abstract Expressionism and Riopelle in particular, influences that once held such strong sway on her. (Icarus) Immolation, 2000, is one of her very latest pictures. It is a large canvas, the surface as usual being animated with layers of briskly applied paint; Icarus is dismembered as his feathers fall across an emboldened sun, light is triumphant even if human aspiration is scuppered. But in her use of colour - ultramarine juxtaposed with vermillion and gold, the fire at the centre of the sun contrasting with the pure, undefiled white of Icarus's feathers - Madden shows herself to be a colourist of surprising power. Indeed in these latest canvases it is her power as a painter, imagery and narrative apart, her use of colour and sense of surface, emboldened by a striking use of gold and silver pigment, that excites our attention and our wonder. The (Icarus) Orbit composition, 1998, is one of the most important and impressive of her recent works. Here, two canvases abut one another and are read as a single unit. Here two 'birds' soar in flight, drawn inescapably to the sun as a moth to candle light. There is no contextual setting, but the image is easily understood and, due to its large size, as spectators we are subsumed into the composition and so share the exhilaration - and, ultimately, the fate- of the birds. Despite the vigorous brushwork, all is calm, a triumphant pas de deux enacted before our eyes.