Deborah Poynton

Everything Matters

4 June - 1 August 2009

Michael Stevenson is pleased to announce an exhibition of recent paintings by Deborah Poynton.

The exhibition follows Poynton's first solo shows in the United States early this year, at the Savannah College of Art and Design's galleries in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia. An accompanying monograph, co-published by SCAD and Michael Stevenson, features a selection of her paintings from 1998 to 2008. These reveal a distillation over time of Poynton's approach and concerns, culminating in her most recent large-scale canvases.

Poynton starts by photographing her subjects: people she knows and with whom she feels a particular affinity, so that she is able to use them in her paintings to convey states of being. The people, whether on their own or in relationship to each other, challenge our engagement as they look out at us, looking in. Highly defined spaces, detailed with furniture, drapery and accumulations of objects, form around the often naked subjects. Every element in her compositions contributes to an overall tautness that amplifies the emotional ambiguity and power of the scenes depicted. At the same time, her spare use of realism avoids the seductions of surface itself, to focus on what is communicated. Poynton writes:

I see my realism as a thin veil, literally a thin painted skin over the nothingness behind everything. We try to defend ourselves from this void. We fill our lives with stuff, talk, distraction. We exert power over others to try to feel less powerless. My paintings are full of stuff but they do not feel particularly secure. I will face you with nakedness to communicate a longing and a terror of connection. This is why realism is the only thing I want to do, because it seems so close. It is beautiful, sumptuous and a complete illusion. It is utterly unavailable. You can't get in there. It is having and wanting at the same time. [Extract from artist's talk, click here to read in full]

Works on exhibition include the 6.5 metre-wide, seven-part painting The Lesson; a diptych titled I Was There Now; and a number of other large canvases, shown in South Africa for the first time.

Poynton was born in 1970 in Durban and her youth was spent between South Africa, Britain, Swaziland and the United States. She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, USA, from 1987 to 1989; since then she has lived and worked in Cape Town. She has held solo exhibitions at Michael Stevenson in 2006, 2004 and 2003, and at Warren Siebrits, Johannesburg, in 2007. She is included on the upcoming exhibition Von Liebeslust und Lebenslast - der inszenierte Alltag, which juxtaposes Dutch 17th-century paintings with contemporary works, at Corvey Castle near Höxter, Germany (opening May 2009). Her work is in the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art in the Netherlands, among other collections.

Poynton will exhibit concurrently with Nicholas Hlobo and the first FOREX project, This is My Africa by Zina Saro-Wiwa. The exhibition opens on Thursday 4 June, 6-8pm. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.

Poynton will give a walkabout for the Friends of the National Gallery on Friday 12 June at 11am; cost is R20 (members and non-members).