Lucy Mackenzie


Review: Lucy Mackenzie, ‘Quiet,’ at Nancy Hoffman Gallery

APRIL 23, 2015

Working with a loving touch on postcard-size and smaller panels and pieces of paper, Lucy Mackenzie paints and draws beguiling, extremely realistic images of toys, balls of string, ceramic tchotchkes, neatly folded clothes, delicate glass vessels, flowers in vases and other more or less ordinary objects. This exhibition presents 32 works dating from 2007 to 2014.


Born in Sudan in 1952 and raised in England, Ms. Mackenzie is a latter-day follower of John Ruskin, the 19th-century British critic who advised artists to pay attention to the finer details of empirical reality. She takes several months to finish one of her exquisite miniatures. That’s a lot of attention to the surfaces she paints and draws on as well as to the light, transparency, patterns and textures of the things she’s representing. Her painstaking way shows in pictures that could be mistaken at a glance for photographs. But unlike in photographs, you can see and feel the patient, handmade quality in Ms. Mackenzie’s works.


It’s especially visible in colored pencil drawings like “Glass Cloth,” an image of a clear tumbler on a red and white dish towel in which you see the grain of paper and of colored wax conspiring to create images of gauzy luminosity. In some paintings, like the spine-wise view of a book titled “Modern Art” that lies on a grid of wooden blocks, she admits a wry, self-reflexive awareness of her marginal place in 20th-century art history. For Ms. Mackenzie, the observing and painting are acts of quasi-religious devotion.



By KEN JOHNSON