Deborah Poyntohn (1970 - )
‘Diorama’, 2004



oil on canvas, 200 x 75cm

In characteristic Poynton style, this painting plays with the tension between the seductive realism of its surface and the deep psychological dislocation evoked by the figures in the family tableau. As always, Poynton leaves the viewer with questions that generate other questions rather than find resolution. Her explanation of the imagery offers clues to the dynamics of the painting, but no clear-cut answers:
‘This is a false scene. The players are self-conscious. The figures, conjured into being by the soft play of light from the flames, have a ghostlike quality. The scene is set with clichés: moon, holy family, firelight, Table Mountain, pretty child with doll, mother and baby. A closer look reveals that the figures in this tight grouping are disconnected from each other. The baby looks half forgotten as the mother eats from tin foil. The child seems distracted by something outside the painting’s frame. The powerful grandfather is drinking a cup of tea as if in a break between filming King Lear or some Greek epic. The young father is restless and resentful, sure of his place within the family but uncertain of his status beyond its borders. The painting is engaging with ties that bind but also trap, be they cultural, familial or historical. The imagery also suggests a sense of myth with the archetypal grouping gathered, perhaps threatened, in the darkness of the wilderness. But the figures are unquestionably contemporary, as is the style of painting, even though there are historical quotes in the imagery, which heightens the paradox between past and present and our different states of being.’
Poynton held her first solo exhibition in 1998, and has subsequently shown with Michael Stevenson in February 2003 and September 2004. She and her family divide their time between Cape Town and Bonn.


© 2005 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.