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Susan Ashworth

Making arrangements

Susan Ashworth was born on the Isle of Portland and grew up in a landscape of stone quarries, cliffs and wide views across field and scrub to open sea. She studied Fine Art in Falmouth, Cornwall, and has continued to live and work on the South Coast. Her work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the UK.


Susan’s interest in the tabletop images of Diebenkorn, Nicholson and Letinsky is reflected in her still-life work, as is the pared-back beauty of her maritime birthplace. Some of these still-lifes might almost be landscapes: oblique light picking out objects effectively dwarfed in expanses of empty space. A lemon, empty bottles, breakfast remains… what we get are familiar items estranged then seen afresh.

The handling of the paint in the work explores the dynamics of representation, with constant play between the flat surface and the illusion of depth and solidity. All kinds of process - simultaneous work on different paintings, widely varied consistencies and applications of paint, rotation of the surface being worked, layering, sanding and scraping - allow accident its shaping role, ‘letting the paint do the work!’


The resulting pictures show things caught at the very moment of appearance, crystalising out of a quiet shimmer of paint. There is a certain melancholia in the paintings. They are subtly elegiac in their suggestion of what is missing - a human presence that has just passed out of view. All the same, there is no denying the joy in this work, and a certain wild freedom. A sober depiction of ordered domestic minutiae will slide into swathes and splatters of untied colour, yet the balance holds. This is the freedom of the instant before the brain categorises what is exposed to the eye. It is a freedom that the paintings of Susan Ashworth celebrate. Without fuss or fanfare, they renew for us the surprise of seeing.

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