Lucy Mackenzie: Quiet
March 19, 2015 - May 2, 2015
The next exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, entitled “Quiet” is Lucy Mackenzie’s first gallery show in eight years. Including oil paintings of intimate scale and drawings, the exhibition opens on March 19 and closes on May 2.
Quiet, timelessness, light, are refrains that echo through the artist’s work. Each of the artist’s still life pieces, while tiny in scale, invites close inspection, and evokes memories. Each is an invitation to a pure, uncluttered world. Mackenzie’s subjects range from the most ordinary of household items--a ball of string and a pair of scissors, to summer flowers from her own garden, and books from a series loved and used by children in the ‘60s, “The Observer’s Books” series. Also included are two paintings paying homage to favorite works from art history: a Leonardo Lady, and Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl— each the artist’s interpretation of a masterwork. The paintings measure from 2x3 inches up to 4x7 inches. The artist works for many months on each piece, creating two to three works a year. These are objects of contemplation and devotion, each a serene, timeless world. Each a poem of tonality, each a musical fugue of shades and hues and values. Each painting is a tiny jewel, each a touchstone to a larger story of life.
While still life has been Mackenzie’s signature subject, the new paintings and drawings venture into less conventional territory. A cookie cutter, bake cup, and spoon transcend their quotidian nature and become vehicles for the artist’s symphony in grays, whites and silver. These ordinary objects, isolated in pristine space, take on heroic and symbolic proportion, becoming touchstones to a holiday, a parent or grandparent who cooked and baked with a love akin to the devotion Mackenzie bathes on her paintings. Not the “normal stuff” of still life, these simple objects become a visual madeleine to memory .
The artist’s love of flowers and fine china--themes she has explored in the past-- continues in this exhibition. “Garden Flowers Late Summer” fill an antique Italian pottery pitcher, a market find, decorated with delicate china painted flowers. The painting is filled with the perfume of late summer abundance depicting a pink and fuchsia bouquet forever fresh, a seasonal moment captured; “Summer Flowers” from the artist’s own garden in pinks, purples, blues and oranges jauntily fill a pitcher by Staffordshire potter, William Ratcliffe, who worked around 1840. The pitcher, which the artist inherited from her grandmother, seems to tell a story with flowers and Chinese fantasy pavilions surrounding its circumference. Like many of the objects Mackenzie paints, this pitcher is a permanent character in her home, with flowers in summer, and brightening a winter day.
For the first time Mackenzie shows paintings of books, tidy stacks of small books that upon examination are evidently not adult books. Each of these paintings is a study in color. “Modern Art” is a single book on three wooden bricks, a study in earth and sand tones; “Four Books” (Trees, Weather, Garden Flowers, Wildflowers) is a study in grass
and sky, blues and greens; and “Three Observer’s Books” (Weather, Sea and Seashore and Painting) is a study in blue, amber and cream: colors of the sky, the foam of the sea and the sun above. Each is a lyrical ode, a silent celebration of learning about the basics of life through reading, each painting takes the viewer back to the basics, to where the magic began and the world opened in all its wonder.
In the past, Mackenzie’s still lifes have been of simple, distilled objects set against a single color background. In her work of the past eight years her juxtapositions, her palette and her subjects have grown more intimate and at the same time more sophisticated. Certain motifs recur throughout her oeuvre as leitmotifs, Mackenzie icons. Some of her objects are ordinary, others spring from memory and her own collections gathered over the years. Mackenzie’s vision incorporates everything in her private world. Her home is a work of art filled with china, fabrics, silver, and collections of many kinds from many eras. Everything on which her eye alights is “material” for a painting. The ordinary becomes extraordinary in Mackenzie’s hands. In her selection and close observation of objects, she finds beauty in a ball of twine, shuttlecocks and folded shirts—a first for Mackenzie. Thus, the viewer stops to reflect not simply on the artist’s choice of subject or objects, but also on the appreciation for “items” we rarely stop to examine, enjoy or embrace. In these subjects, the artist provides the viewer with an example of the age-old adage: “it is important to stop and smell the roses.”
Lucy Mackenzie was born in Sudan, Africa in 1952 and moved to Isles of Scilly, England as a young child. She received a B.A. from Bristol Polytechnic and an M.A. from the Royal College of Art, London where she received the Princess of Wales Scholarship.
The artist was awarded a fellowship at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham. She was commissioned by Lord Esher, Rector of Royal College of Art, for H.M. The Queen, for a Silver Jubilee gift from the college.
Mackenzie’s work has been shown in public venues abroad at the Royal College of Art, 150 Anniversary Painting Exhibition, London; Museo Municipal, Madrid; the Welsh Arts Council Touring Exhibition; and in this country at the Fine Arts Center Galleries, University of Rhode Island, Kingston.
For information and/or photographs, please call the gallery at 212-966-6676 or email at info@nancyhoffmangallery .com