The Seen and the Unseen

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The Seen and the Unseen Paintings by Marguerite Horner

25 January – 25 February 2012 PM Gallery & House Walpole Park London W5 5EQ

Marguerite Horner Artist Statement 2011

My practice is concerned with the non-material, a reality we can access through contemplation and painting.

Today the moving image dominates our world and whilst visually powerful in so many respects, it denies us the opportunity for stillness and reflection. The value of a painting lies in its ability to induce a contemplative state in the viewer. As Walter Benjamin says 'before it the spectator can abandon himself to his associations.' For me, the value of contemplation lies in its ability to reconcile the heart and the mind into one. I'm inspired by Merleau-Ponty's observation that it is 'precisely because painting does not ‘copy’ things, and because it does not offer things to thought as does science but presents them immediately and bodily, in their depth and movement, that painting gives a true sense of the world and what it means to see it.'

Through my work I'm interested in enquiring into the ways in which man may be related to the infinite. Upon the framework of this enquiry my paintings aim to investigate, amongst other things, notions of transience, intimacy, loss and hope. I use the external world as a trigger or metaphor for these experiences? and through a period of gestation and distillation, I make a series of intuitive decisions that lead the work towards completion. A few years ago a stay in New York and Long Island was characterised by an intense period of recording image. My latest body of work was triggered and has subsequently emerged from that.

Marguerite Horner

If you could say it in words, there would be no need to paint. What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.

Both remarks are from the revered painter of isolation, alienation and loneliness, making for the spectator poetry out of banality: the American Edward Hopper, (1882-1967). He was the seeker of scenes both in the countryside of New England and in big cities, from hotel rooms to those white framed colonial houses dappled with cool sunlight. Marguerite Horner’s paintings are both vastly different but obliquely refer to these 20th and 21st century preoccupations, so that Hopper’s stance and commitment seem resonant and relevant. Above all, Horner’s vision takes the ordinary, and makes of it something elusive, subtle, haunting, poetic: things we all see but pass by. This is done without a sharp focus searchlight, but in tones and hues of the softest of misty colours, that elusive look before the sun has burnt through, with a very occasional almost shocking blue and even red as startling punctuation. But it is the modulated grey sky, the ranges of cool whites which dominate. One title is In the Middle of Nowhere, but Horner reminds us that nowhere is always somewhere. Above all her paintings leave such room for the reflections of the viewer’s imagination, space for us to respond. She does not tell, she shows.

The subject matter of Marguerite Horner’s paintings, almost all in her characteristic beguiling and fascinatingly subtle gradations of silvery greys, are based on scenes glimpsed in small towns, occasional big cities, and rarely an excursion into nature, or rather, a segment of wooded landscape, the kind of wood that is on the edge of the road, where you might park your car and venture for a moment. There are isolated houses, parking lots, and several scenes are delineated, framed, marked by sequences of electrical or telephonic wires and poles and fences at verticals or diagonals. It is as though the spectator were looking through to the scene beyond. These lines in space, and occasionally wintry trees their branches stripped of leaves, subtly anchor the solidity of houses and tangles of tree trunks. Human presences occasionally obtrude, even intrude, but equally may be as essential and as rock solid as the buildings, roads and cars of the townscape. Edward Hopper again: My aim in painting has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impression of nature.

Hopper, eloquent yet reticent, speaks for many artists. By nature he too meant the manmade, the environment people inhabit. But vision is transmuted always individually. And it is the individual aspect of Horner’s paintings that capture the eye. The resemblance to any other artist is illusory and superficial, although of course a sense both of the history of art and design informs her work. It is much more a sense of a shared mood, a profound commitment, and an extraordinary tenacity and determination. Professionally, when starting out after her initial degree, Marguerite received further specialist training for what to lay people must seem an arcane preoccupation, currently

transformed and changed beyond recognition in the digital age, but then absolutely hand done: she became a scene painter for BBC television, no stranger to the transformative qualities of paint, and to the art of illusion. She had a further career as the visual collaborator with photographers and the print media, a scene setter herself. Through these years she expanded a special understanding both of actual materials and of compositions, and of how visual messages were communicated. Then, briefs were set; now she sets her own. But she has spoken of the very nature of understanding the actual materiality of paint, on large and small scale, that these years amplified for her, not to mention the understanding of arrangements and installations. It speaks to the confident understructure of her compositions: and compositions they are. Yet the profound difference is of course that here compositions are dictated by Marguerite’s mind’s eye, the individual gaze, with no collaboration with extrinsic demands. Her current imagery is based on her own photographs mostly taken during a prolonged stay in Long Island and New York. The more one looks at photographs, whether analogue or digital, one realises that the mechanics are just the beginning, the medium so to speak, as paint is; what matters, totally crucial, is the eye behind the camera.

Many of Marguerite’s images are captured as though the photographer was rooted to the ground; others from a slightly elevated point of view (subliminally reminiscent of late 19th century townscapes, from first or second story windows) and some taken through the windows of commuter trains. Small town America has a long lineage of examination not only through art but through literature, sometimes celebrated even sentimentalised, as in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, sometimes the subject of tragedy, and sometimes as in the clusters of suburbia and commuter towns, a sense of emptiness, of lives lived elsewhere. Most people live in conurbations, but the myth of the small town, the village, remains strong, and particularly perhaps in America with its folk memory of New England town meetings, of early participatory democracy. And now these shells of emptiness dominate, the stuff of thrillers – Harlan Coben comes to mind – of places from which to escape. The fact that we recognise Marguerite Horner’s current subject matter is itself a tribute to the myth, and we recognise these scenes as backdrops to seemingly invisible lives, emotional lives, as sets if you like, sets created by myriad hands through time, and in many ways drained of life. These townscapes, and landscapes, and isolated houses with a play of light like Magritte – night glowing into day – are both concrete (although not necessarily reassuringly so) and insubstantial, almost like dreams. Yet verbal descriptions can all too easily make Marguerite Horner’s paintings sound commonplace. The subjects may deliberately partake of the substance of the day to day: but the artist’s dexterity of hand, designer’s eye and heartfelt imagination lift the ordinary into the extraordinary, and the specific into the universal. As her title for this current exhibition says, these paintings are about the seen and the unseen, the life behind the eye as well as the life in front of it. Marina Vaizey CBE, 2012

Lady Vaizey CBE is an art critic and author, formerly Art Critic for the Financial Times and Sunday Times and editor of the Art Quarterly and Review. She has written several books on art and also has been a judge for the Turner Prize.

‘In the Middle of Nowhere’

2011, Oil on linen, 100cm x 100cm


2011, Oil on linen, 100cm x 100cm

‘Creeping Shadow’

2011, Oil on canvas, 50cm x 50cm

‘Into the Wilderness’

2010, Oil on canvas, 50cm x 50cm

‘Come on lets go’

2011, Oil on canvas, 50cm x 50cm


2011, Oil on linen, 50cm x 50cm

‘End Rd’

2011, Oil on linen, 50cm x 50cm

‘The Guardian’

2011, Oil on linen, 50cm x 50cm

‘The Adolescent’

2011, Oil on canvas, 50cm x 50cm


2010, Oil on canvas, 50cm x 50cm

‘The Counsellor’

2010, Oil on linen, 50cm x 50cm


2010, Oil on linen, 50cm x 50cm

‘Ineffably perceived’

2007, Oil on canvas, 122cm x 92cm


2011, Oil on canvas paper, 20cm x 20cm

Education: 2001-2004:

Group 2011: 2011: 2011: 2011: 2011: 2011: 2011: 2011: 2010: 2010: 2010: 2010: 2010: 2010: 2010: 2009: 2009: 2009: 2009: 2009: 2008: 2008: 2008: 2008: 2007: 2007: 2007: 2007: 2006: 2006: 2006: 2006: 2006: 2005: 2005: 2005: 2005: 2005: 2005: 2004:

MA Fine Art Painting, City and Guilds of London Art School, London • B.A, Honours Degree in Fine Art Painting: Sheffield University • Foundation: Lincoln College of Art

exhibitions: National Open Art Competition Exhibition, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, Sussex ING Discerning Eye , Mall Galleries, London SW1 The MacGuffin, WW Gallery, Hackney Downs. London E5 B&A Charity Exhibition, Yokohama Civic Art Gallery, Japan Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London W1 Afternoon Tea, WW Gallery, 54th VENICE BIENNALE, Italy FOUND: for Kettles Yard Development. The Brompton Garage, London SW3 London Art Fair, WW Gallery in Project Galleries, Islington, London N1 ARTSWAY OPEN 2010, ArtSway, Hampshire, UK, England Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, Painters’ Hall London EC4, England ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, The Mall Galleries, London SW1 Collaborators2, ROOM Gallery, Hoxton, London E2 The Threadneedle Prize, The Mall Galleries, London SW1 The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, The Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London W1 Drink and Dial, WW Gallery, Hackney Downs, London E5 C4RD Moot fourdayslong, Centre for Recent Drawing, London N1 The Artist and the Garden, Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, West Sussex Art in Action, Waterberry House, Oxfordshire. England A Blast of Colour, Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, West Sussex Summer Exhibition, Moncrieff-Bray Gallery, West Sussex Art for Youth, The Mall Galleries London, London The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, The Royal Academy, London W1 Inside Out: Woman’s Work Art Group. Links Gallery, Winchester, England London Art Fair, Islington, London N1 TRANSITION, Beverley Knowles Fine Art, Notting Hill, London W10. Seeing is Believing, West Bridgford, England Id:entity: Woman’s Work Art Group. Aldershot England London Art Fair, Islington, London N1 Atmosfear, AIR Gallery, 32, Dover St, London W1 StarDust, Star Gallery, Lewes , East Sussex, Lewes, East Sussex Art London Art Fair, Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London Lowood/BKFA Exhibition, Lowood Gallery, Cumbria 20/20 exhibition, Beverley Knowles Fine Art, London W10 Discerning Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London Mirage of Minds, Century Gallery, Hoxton, London E2 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy, London W1 Royal Society of Marine Artists, Mall Galleries, London SW1 She Exists, Beverley Knowles Gallery, London SE1 Affordable Art Fair, Battersea Park, London SW11 The Oval Theatre, Kennington. London SE11

Solo exhibitions: 2012: The Seen and the Unseen, PM Gallery, London W5 2011: Marguerite Horner, Lautrec Gallery, Chelsea Arts Club, London SW3 2010: A Series of Drawings, Pavilion Cafe, Dulwich Park, London 2006: "Marguerite Horner solo exhibition", Star Gallery, Lewes, East Sussex • Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield • Usher Art Gallery Lincoln

Competitions, prizes and awards: 2006: Saatchi/Guardian Competition, selected by Tim Marlow, Guardian G2 2006: Shortlisted for Celeste Art Prize 2004: Kidd Rapinet Award, for outstanding work at the MA Show, presented by Sir Peter Blake, City and Guilds of London Art School Auctions and Charity Exhibitions: 2011: FOUND – sale to raise funds for Kettles Yard development 2010: Austerity Xmas BogoF – in aid of NSPCC at WW Gallery, London 2009: Exquisite Corpse – The Chelsea Arts Club Trust, London 2009: Art for Youth – Mall Galleries. London 2009: The Quentin Follies – Charleston. E. Sussex 2008: Secret Art Sale – in aid of ‘SHELTER’ Levitt Bernstein Architects. London 2007: Medical Foundation for the care of Victims of Torture., 26,Store St, London WC1 2006: York Freedom Auctions, supporting CAMFED Residencies: 2009: Hatley, nr Cambridge (Summer) Public collections: Sheffield City Art Gallery Private collections: Ireland; Switzerland; Cape Town; South Africa; New Zealand; England Publications: 2012: The Seen and the Unseen – catalogue essay by Lady Marina Vaizey C.B.E. 2011: ING Discerning Eye Exhibition Catalogue 2011: The MacGuffin – catalogue essay by Lady Mary Rose Beaumont and Anna McNay 2011: Afternoon Tea – catalogue, with text by Cherry Smyth and Helen Sumpter, as Part of the ‘UK at the Venice Biennale’ programme and the wider Biennale collateral exhibitions, 54th Venice Biennale 2010: Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Catalogue 2010: Threadneedle Prize catalogue 2010: ROOM’ Collaborators 2’ Catalogue 2010: Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize Exhibition Catalogue 2009: Artists and Illustrators- The Colour of Thought by Erik Empson 2006: Marguerite Horner solo exhibition Star Gallery Lewes, introduction by Julian Bell 2006: Viva Lewes: Alex Leith interview 2006: Antiques Magazine: Is that what it is: Eulogies on the Exterior; Erik Empson The Independent; Sue Hubbard 2005: Arts Review; Francis Spalding – review of Mappin Art Gallery solo show Designed & Produced by RHA Design. Tel +44 (0)1522 542144

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