Express from Marrakech

Debra Lennard 18 October 2007

Tess Recordon

Broughton House Gallery

October 6-27

Tess Recordon’s latest exhibit at the Broughton House Gallery on King Street is essentially the Ronseal of art exhibits: it does exactly what it says on the tin. The twenty-six paintings in this exhibition are based upon Recordon’s extensive travels in India, Morocco and Italy, and since her artistic practice is to neglect the typical tourist’s penchant for capturing every available Kodak moment, she works in the studio entirely from memory. Recordon explains that she aims to capture ‘a whole experience, not a singular moment in time’, making her abstract oil and raw pigment paintings a melting pot of sensory perceptions, ranging from the metamorphosing light of a thunder shower brightening into a clear sky, to the smell of puris sold off the street in India, or just the general anarchy of the souks of Marrakech.

Bearing in mind the vivacity of Recordon’s visited locations, it is somewhat disappointing that the first painting that greets the eye in the exhibition, From the river, is not nearly visually impressive enough to carry this weighty responsibility. This is not to suggest that the rest of the exhibition continues in the same vein however; the indefinite mid-blue verticals of From the river together with their meek gold overlay are soon replaced with far more dynamic compositions. Though the coarse layering of pigment which captures the crumbling, sun-warmed feel of the faces of Venetian waterfront buildings is pleasant, Recordon’s work is really at its strongest when recounting the sights of India.

The Indian portion of the exhibition is set in the temples of Tamil Nadu, and speaks clearly of the experiences of one who has sat and observed in total fascination. The luminous contrast of colour between splayed bands of rose-petal pink and a deep womb-like crimson of Temple Light perfectly represents the rays of intense light filtering through a temple’s layered pillars, and the sense of an occasional ‘glimpse of something you can’t quite see’, as Recordon herself reminisces. Similarly, the series of paintings which capture the Hindu worship practice of Darshan (wherein a worshipper connects spiritually with a certain God through worshipping their icon) is entirely absorbing, as the orb-like centralised forms evolve outwards on the canvas, crackling with the energy of fractals.

The staging of the exhibition is its singular downfall, as there is a great potential for chiaroscuratic contrast and leaping colours of the Fauvist variety, if only certain bold items had been placed alongside one another. The gallery itself is very welcoming and cosy however, and does lend itself well to an exhibition as intimate as this. ‘Travel and Memory’ certainly is an enjoyable way to while away twenty minutes or so, but you may not come away feeling that you’ve seen the sights and sounds of the great wide world. Morocco, anyone?

Debra Lennard