Vivienne Worn

Seeking, thinking and citing through paint


Philosopher Henri Bergson believed the past survives in an unconscious state, as a kind of infinite ground to our being in and of the world. This state is accessible through experience and thought through bodily action. Paint and body, conflated through the brushstroke, might then be offered as an arena for opening out the past, and actively testing what possibilities remain that could be useful for the present. In operating this way, the aim is for a conceptual painting method that sits somewhere between abstraction and figuration which also has significant connections. If this work is abstract in appearance, it also responds to a contemporary digital version of the figure, one gleaned from small virtual clippings and painterly moments from the works of past women artists.

In selecting works of women artists to stretch out from, there is a wish to re-visit and re-frame the past so proposing a revitalised present, one which threads an alternate path through the art historical canon. Through this project a beginning for a matrilineage of sorts has been found: an artist whose enchanting work resides locally, within Auckland Art Gallery’s collection; Italian painter, Lavinia Fontana (1552 – 1614), renowned for her meticulous attention to detail and as the first woman artist to achieve success within the European marketplace, and as such, among the first to serve as inspiration for future artists. The warmth and direct gaze of the painting’s sitter captivated me and led to an exploration of Fontana’s work and life in ways that offer support from afar as her momentary painterly decisions drift and slip through my own work.

Beginnings IV (Lavinia Fontana), oil on canvas, 1200 x 950mm
Beginnings VI (Lavinia Fontana), oil on canvas, 1200 x 950mm
Beginnings II (Lavinia Fontana), oil on canvas, 1200 x 950mm
Beginnings V (Lavinia Fontana), oil on canvas, 550 x 450mm
Beginnings VII (Lavinia Fontana), oil on canvas, 1600 x 2000mm

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