Art Review: Mien Greyling (21 June to 21 July 2012)

Mien Greyling’s exhibition, entitled Intimate Spaces, is currently showing at The Montage Gallery until the 21 July.

The title of the exhibition is aptly named as the collection consists of figurative paintings of everyday objects and scenes, obviously drawn from Greyling’s day-to-day experiences.

Every one of the smallish oil paintings is quiet and understated, reminiscent of some Realists and Impressionists.

Her brushwork and painterly application are confident, bold and decisive. It is clear that she is comfortable with the medium. Her palette is warm and nuanced, working deftly with light and form. Despite the rough paint application, she is able to convince the eye of light, form and weight. The feeling of spaces, however, remains flattened but, in view of Greyling’s approach to the medium, this will be unavoidable.

She seems most comfortable painting interiors and landscapes, though, and her figures, especially the nudes and including her self-portrait, seem flat and lifeless in comparison. Her human forms seem out of place in her interiors. They are intruders in her warm and familiar settings, and feel forced.

The one exception to this is a painting entitled “Sleep” which is painted with the same warmth and a profound attention to the subject that Greyling attaches to the objects that make up her life. It, by far, one of the strongest of the pieces. Suggestive of the work of Lucian Freud, it speaks clearly to the overarching theme of the exhibition. The foreground is overwhelmed by the sleeping figure in a bed, where the subject seems to becomes one with the linen. The figure is transformed and absorbed into Greyling’s environment.

It leaves the viewer feeling like a guest or an intruder in a small and very private moment.

Greyling’s paintings work best when the colours are subdued and the expressive, textured paint application is allowed to speak and describe the forms. In some of the more colourful pieces, like Red Pumps, the forms are lost and the colours are in danger of overwhelming. The quiet, sentimental and intimate spaces are swallowed into the decorative.

Greyling’s exhibition will not shake the foundations of Art and culture to its roots. The subject matter remains very traditional, and both the execution and approach stay middle-of-the-road. Nevertheless, despite this, there is an understated but powerful statement about finding solace and comfort in the day-to-day.

Naked in the Studio 2

A Dry Season

Sleep

Unmade Bed

Once again, thanks to Nadine.