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Rachel Busby

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Busby’s forms are swirling, not baroquely but uncertainly. They’re bleak, murky. They push around the canvas, over and over again, at pains to make themselves known. But at the same time their movement is agile and sweeping: a path traced thickly, leading nowhere in particular and as it changes direction the splaying of the brush is palpable; or the row of circular shapes that still retain the trail of bristles turned deftly in on themselves marked by striations of grey on grey tones. Sometimes it’s clear what they are, or what they were, or what they are becoming: an ark, a blue vase, a figure, a tent, a frame. But very often nothing is clear except the rhythmical repetition of contact between paint and canvas: wiping, smearing, streaking, rubbing. A skin of paint, eroding the form that lies in there somewhere, below the surface ‘constantly reforming itself on the stream’.

Busby’s identifiable forms melt into a smudgy blur, sucked into a silent vortex of people, objects and places partially forgotten or remembered. In fact her paintings spiral into a sphere of wordfulness, from her extended titles — like Silver Wheels poured into next door’s tent or Sunday afternoon, Anna described the film "Carrie" in such detail, I never had to watch it - we were learning to roller skate at the time — to the visceral detail of the stories she tells, behind the scenes.
Which brings us back to Busby’s sombre whirlpooling. Colour strains to assert itself through dry swathes and smears of layers of paint applied and reapplied, chased round and round the canvas in the hope of catching something. Something. She probes that something unrelenting, rarely appearing satisfied; her canvases like scenes, dwelled on and returned to again and again. Because colour is intermittent when it’s there, it sucks you in along with it. Streaks, swirls or scratches of sharp orange, yellow or blue penetrate the gloom. Colour’s exhortation resounds, comfortingly around the grey vagaries from which they are called forth, as if grown naturally from these worked up areas, so worked up, they’re dulled. Her already muted palette, further dirtied by over thinking, ‘Grey through overworking’, Busby calls it. In Busby, colour offers respite, a pause, a breath, some sense of light relief that the something of that something that she’s been chasing around the canvas has been found. It is momentary however. For in an instant it’s gone.
What about those greys though? Busby’s grey? Maybe, poet, Robert Hass can help with that.i If I said grey: the fug of one’s mind turning the memory of a conversation, a place, a story, a time over and over in one’s head? The greyness of Time. If I said the grey of a Welsh sky clogged by enveloping rain clouds? Or the dimpled grey of cheerless concrete breeze blocks? Whatever it is, it’s stifling, swallowing up details in the telling and retelling. Only with difficulty can we distinguish one element from another. But some things just won’t leave us alone: the prick of that blue vase, say.

There’s a story behind it, that blue vase, but you don’t need to know it. Here it tells its own. Sometimes it’s blown up to take on the whole expanse of the canvas, at others it’s set back, miniaturised and monumentalised by the excesses of the Howard Hodgkin-esque painted frame. Sometimes Busby’s thick brush swoons around its contours in a single continuous swirling movement, at others its outline is slight, offered up more tentatively, with reservation. Phenomenologist and philosopher Eugene Minkowski identified a ‘new dynamic and vital category, a new property of the universe: reverberation’. That was in 1936. But Busby’s paintings give uncanny visual voice to that reverberation: ‘It is as though a well-spring existed in a sealed vase and its waves, repeatedly echoing against the sides of this vase, filled it with their sonority’, he said.ii In Everyday is a different day undulation of the vase is given form not just by the fact of its depiction, its own unmistakable ‘vaseness’, but by the undulating space around it, as if the vase itself fills the air with a vibration of curving vaselike forms. As if the vase has swallowed up its surroundings, as if the air around it reverberates with the memory of this little or not so little vessel.

On form - excerpts from an essay ON FORM, written by Lizzie Lloyd
 accompanyed the exhibition "HINTERLAND - Rachel Busby & David Webb, Exeter Pheonix, 2014

On Form

Lizzie Lloyd

Rachel Busby’s paintings are rooted in her return, from living and working in large cities, to her childhood home on the west coast of Wales. She revisits objects, stories and places from her own past, and from the ancient landscape that surrounds her once again – fleeting memories and imaginary histories.

Often employing a muted pallet of greys, lifted by glimpses of colour and layers of contrasting brushwork that break down the picture plane, gestural brushwork and compositional devices become proxies for objects, figures and emotions. A sense of slippage occurs between familiarity and alienation; intimate interiority and the ever-present shadow of the unforgiving weather and the beautiful, wild landscape.

Titles such as Silver Wheels Peered in to Next Door’s Tent (2013), House Built Over a Viking Boat (2014) and Sunday Afternoon, Anna described the film ‘Carrie’ in such detail, I never had to watch it - we were learning to roller skate at the time (2014), give some insight into the rich sense of narrative that lies at the heart of her paintings.

Matt Burrows, Curator, Exeter Pheonix, 2014


Rachel Busby
United Kingdom


Web Links
Exeter Phoenix
Change at Crew, The Studio, Llandudno, 2014
Oriel Davies Open 2014
Transition Gallery, London
Postcards from Pareidolia pdf
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